Lenfest launches Local News Infrastructure Fund, $7.25M to boost newsroom technology


To bolster the tech services available to local news publishers, the Lenfest Institute for Journalism launched the Lenfest Local News Infrastructure Fund with a $7.25 million grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Previously, LION Publishers led the initiative, but it transitioned to the Lenfest Institute in late 2023.

According to Ken Herts, chief operating officer at Lenfest, the Infrastructure Fund aims to support companies providing critical technology infrastructure and services specifically tailored for newsrooms.

He explained that rather than providing direct support to newsrooms, the Fund focuses on subsidizing businesses and services that work hand-in-hand with newsrooms to enhance their technological capabilities and support backend technology that spurs revenue growth and product delivery to their audience.

The Fund’s first beneficiaries include Newspack, known for its publishing platform, and BlueLena, known for its marketing and digital revenue services. Herts said there is a desire to find new services to add to the Fund's roster that help newsrooms with financial management and customer listening.

Herts emphasized the importance of these technological advancements for sustaining local news outlets, and he said the hope is that other philanthropists contribute to the Fund to help expand the reach of the efforts, “Local news publishers need to effectively engage audiences and develop digital revenue streams. The platforms supported by the Lenfest Local News Infrastructure Fund will empower publishers to do just that.”

Newspack, an all-in-one publishing, monetization and analytics platform, currently serves over 250 independent local news publishers and will receive funds to subsidize initial costs for transitioning news organizations and providing consultation on revenue and audience growth strategies. BlueLena, specializing in driving audience growth and monetization through technology management and professional services, will also continue to benefit from the Fund's support.

Herts explained both companies need outside support while they build a full roster of customers and that the Infrastructure Fund will support them and other similar projects to keep their fees affordable until they can scale their operations for sustainability.

In an announcement about the project, Marc Lavallee, program director at the Knight Foundation, highlighted the importance of supporting business innovation for publishers of all sizes, “We want to make these technology solutions — and more — available to publishers of all sizes without friction. The Fund will serve as a technology and business accelerator, speeding the adoption of solutions that have demonstrated success.”

Sapna Satagopan from CalMatters will join Herts and Lavalle on the Fund’s advisory board to provide guidance on programming and vendor management and to evaluate new potential technologies and service providers to add to the program.

Diane Sylvester is an award-winning 30-year multimedia news veteran. She works as a reporter, editor and newsroom strategist. She can be reached at diane.povcreative@gmail.com


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