American Journalism Project launches incubator with support from Google News Initiative to seed new startups led by exceptional talent
This 18-month incubator will support the development and launch of new nonprofit news projects
WASHINGTON — Dec. 14, 2022 — The American Journalism Project (AJP), with support from the Google News Initiative (GNI), announced the launch of a Local News Incubator to seed and support new local news organizations led by exceptional talent, with the aim of advancing a new generation of impact-driven and innovative news organizations from conception through launch.
“Local news — an essential pillar of our democracy — is at a turning point,” said Sarabeth Berman, CEO of the American Journalism Project. “Ambitious nonprofit news projects are driving an industry shift. We’re excited to support the next generation of local news leaders who are rising to this moment and eager to build ambitious, scalable organizations that meet the information needs of communities.”
Through Feb. 15, 2023, U.S.-based founders with innovative ideas to advance local news may apply for the incubator’s cohort. The incubator will support up to four startup ideas; each will receive $400,000 in seed funding, and personalized, hands-on support to complete a robust research and development process and fundraising campaign. “As part of the Google News Initiative’s efforts to support news entrepreneurs and a thriving local news ecosystem, we are excited to find and support talent which can lead the nonprofit news industry into the next stage of its development,” said Conor Crowley, head of startups at the Google News Initiative. “These founders will closely reflect the communities they serve while meeting information needs in innovative new ways.”
The program builds on the success of AJP’s existing incubation work. In 2020, the venture philanthropy helped establish Capital B and Mountain State Spotlight through a similar model: the founders of these news organizations were given seed capital and substantial technical support to plan and build their newsrooms. This model gave the newsroom founders the ability to create a strong infrastructure for their editorial work, while also enabling them to build their revenue strategy and raise initial capital.
The incubation program will utilize lessons learned from nonprofit local news organizations across the country. Since its launch in 2019, the American Journalism Project has invested funding in 33 organizations at various stages of development. AJP’s investments support the growth and sustainability of these organizations by funding their business and operational capacity; a portion of its portfolio includes organizations it has helped launch, including the recently-announced Signal Cleveland, which was created as a solution to local news gaps identified through the venture philanthropy’s local philanthropy partnerships program. The new incubator program will draw on lessons learned from the full body of the venture philanthropy’s grantmaking work.
The program aims to build a diverse pipeline of nonprofit, local news founders and talent with bold visions for serving communities. The program will work to reduce barriers to entry for news leaders who historically have not had access to similar capital. It will also target talent new to the nonprofit local news field, advancing new leaders who are passionate about democracy, local news and social entrepreneurship.
The level of seed funding available to each project is significant for startups in local, nonprofit news. The program aims to alleviate the undue financial burden often placed on nonprofit news founders, and instead give new newsroom leaders the opportunity to pursue building startups full time. Founders will be able to focus on building their business plan and raising additional capital before they launch.
“We’re eager to give founders – particularly those who traditionally face barriers in accessing funding – all the tools needed to start and grow strong, local nonprofit news organizations,” said Michael Ouimette, senior vice president, strategy & startups, at the American Journalism Project. ”This program aims to support and grow the next generation of local news leadership as they launch big, impactful news organizations that provide essential service to their communities.”
Incubator participants will receive personalized, one-on-one coaching through each phase of the startup and launch process, as well as benefit from cohort learning opportunities with other AJP grantees. During the 18-month program, participants will conduct research, develop a solution to the local news and information needs in their given market, begin fundraising efforts, and prepare to launch their editorial product.
Applications are welcome from founders at any early phase of their startup work, including those still building newsroom concepts. To learn more about the incubator program or view the application, visit theajp.org/incubator.
The American Journalism Project and Google News Initiative are hosting an information session on January 12, 2023 to answer any questions about the program. Register here.
About the American Journalism Project
The American Journalism Project is a venture philanthropy dedicated to local news. We believe local journalism is a public good and are reimagining its future by building a model to finance and sustain the local news our democracy requires. We make grants to local nonprofit news organizations to build their revenue and business operations, partner with communities to launch new organizations, and mentor leaders as they grow and sustain their newsrooms. To learn more about the American Journalism Project, visit theajp.org.
About the Google News Initiative
The Google News Initiative (GNI) is Google’s effort to partner with news publishers around the world to build a long-lasting, diverse and innovative news ecosystem. We do this by offering training, programmes, funding and products to journalists and newsrooms to help strengthen their work in the digital age.
Hannah Ross, American Journalism Project, email@example.com, 301-857-1979