In April, Facebook kicked off their latest Accelerator programs for North American publishers. Centered on reader revenue, the programs include the Subscriptions Accelerator and the Memberships Accelerator.
Thirty news organizations were chosen for this year’s program. According to Facebook, more than half are owned or led by Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian and/or other communities of color, and 75 percent focus on local news. Among them are Documented, The AFRO-American, The Juggernaut, and Native News Online.
“We are delighted and encouraged to see the diversity of applicants overall, and the selected participants in particular,” Jay Small, chief operating officer of the Local Media Association, said in the initial announcement. “We at LMA are familiar with quite a few of the participants, and know their strong commitments to quality local journalism. Others are new to us but show those same commitments. We look forward to seeing them all grow through their work in the Accelerators.”
Participants were selected from nearly 300 applications by Facebook staff, Local Media Association (LMA) staff and Accelerator coaches. David Grant, program manager for the Facebook Journalism Project, shared that they sought organizations that were interested in building a responsive community and connecting with their readers. This is evident in the work the organization has already produced, and in the way they approach journalism, he said. They also selected organizations that can learn from one another.
The Mississippi Free Press, a nonprofit media outlet that launched in March 2020, is one such organization. Founding publisher Kimberly Griffin explained that they decided to apply because their members “deserve an incredible experience because they are incredibly generous.”
“Many of them gave before we officially launched. We don’t take that trust lightly,” she said. “Every dollar makes an impact and allows us to do meaningful and challenging work. Donna Ladd, co-founder and executive director, and I know it’s vital we create a membership program that offers value and shows our members they are valued.”
The Accelerator programs include a three-month period of training and guidance, which concluded this month. The training involved virtual workshops with experts and hands-on exercises and weekly calls with a dedicated coach such as marketing and analytics experts.
The instruction period is followed by a six-month period to execute specific grant-funded initiative. Funds are distributed by LMA. Participating news organizations can also join Slack channels where Accelerator alumni gather.
Grant said the program started out of local news publishers’ number one issue: driving a new revenue stream and making the transition to reader revenue.
“Those partner publishers are extremely important partners to Facebook, so we work very closely with them to help them along their journey,” he said.
Facebook reported the 2020 program, in which 28 newsrooms participated, resulted in more than 76,000 new paying supports, more than 625,000 new registered readers (including newsletter subscribers and site registers), and $18.4 million in customer lifetime value.