Beyond Print: Awarding $242,000 in grants to develop digital audience and digital revenue streams


On a surface level, the Beyond Print grant program might seem like an Oprah Winfrey Show experience. “Twenty-five thousand for YOU! And You! And You!” 

Ten news organizations won up to $25,000 in grants to help convert print subscribers into digital customers, and those teams no doubt celebrated their good fortune.

But from the standpoint of The Lenfest Institute, which reviewed more than 50 applications and handed out the grants, the program’s value is more about helping the news industry than providing one-time allowances to 10 deserving companies. The larger value will come when the recipients’ methods are studied and successes are shared with the rest of the news industry.

“There are more than 1,000 daily newspapers still remaining … and we believe that for them to survive and thrive, they're going to need to develop a digital audience and digital revenue streams,” said Ken Herts, the chief operating officer at The Lenfest Institute. “So the question is, how could newspapers preserve their journalism as print revenue and interest decline? We put out a call for people to propose experiments about moving beyond print, so that we could learn from and share results with the rest of the industry and create a bigger knowledge base.”

The Lenfest Institute and the American Press Institute teamed up to launch the Beyond Print program in 2022. The pilot included La Voz at The Arizona Republic, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Seattle Times — four large and highly respected journalism institutions. The idea behind the program was for the four outlets to test or expand digital revenue models and review their reliance on print revenue.

Then, in 2023, Lenfest and API gathered more than 20 news organizations together to discuss digital solutions and share digital lessons. Many discussions centered on customer service and training print diehards about engaging with digital news products, such as e-editions.

By 2024, the Beyond Print awards were given to 10 organizations, which were smaller than the original quartet. The projects included hiring a social media and communications coordinator, updating advertising media kits to include digital projects, creating sports video content, establishing new email newsletters and several more. In all, Lenfest awarded $242,000. Nine recipients were awarded $25,000; one was awarded $17,000.

The open call for grant applications was designed for publishers wanting to experiment with ways to reduce their print footprints and carve a path to digital revenue sustainability. The applications, according to Lenfest’s website, asked that projects address at least one of the following:

  • Revenue transition from print to digital
  • Newsroom content, capabilities and workflows
  • Print and digital product development and user experience
  • Technology system evolution
  • Customer service planning
  • Customer communication planning
  • Manufacturing and distribution planning and contracts
  • Financial modeling

The funds may not be used to continue existing projects or programs; instead, the project should have a likely transformative impact on the organization’s sustainability. All grantees must share their results and learnings for a toolkit, which will be made available to the news industry.

The grant term will run through June 2024.

The Lenfest Institute was founded in 2016 by cable TV entrepreneur Gerry Lenfest, who donated an endowment of $20 million to invest in innovations and new models for sustainable journalism. Lenfest supports projects in Pennsylvania as the non-controlling, nonprofit owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer and dozens of news organizations in the region. It also supports national projects, such as the Beyond Print program.

Bob Miller has spent over 25 years in local newsrooms, including 12 years as an executive editor with Rust Communications. Bob also produces an independent true crime investigative podcast called The Lawless Files.


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