Knight Foundation offers share of $2 million to help newsrooms use new publishing platforms to grow audiences

Three-year initiative will give publishers subsidies to adopt and manage digital platforms

Contact: Roshni Neslage, Communications Officer, Knight Foundation, [email protected], 305-908-2623

MIAMI — February 5, 2020 — As part of its work to help newsrooms optimize their use of technology, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation today announced a call for applications for a new initiative to help news organizations find sustainable publishing solutions. 

From now through March 8, nonprofit newsrooms and/or newsrooms that serve underrepresented communities are invited to apply for the initiative. In its inaugural year, the program will offer one-time grants of up to $20,000 to 25 publishers for the adoption or management of a digital publishing system, utilizing robust tools to help them deliver news and information in new ways and help meet their business needs.

The open call is part of a three-year, $2 million commitment by Knight to help newsrooms access and adopt new digital publishing systems with the aim of increasing revenue, membership and audience engagement. As part of this initiative, the foundation will issue similar calls through 2022.

“The development, deployment and maintenance of publishing systems to meet the business needs of publishers is a major challenge,” said Paul Cheung, Knight Foundation director for journalism and technology innovation. “This initiative will help publishers leverage technology to maximize audience revenue so that they can better serve their local communities.”

As the media landscape continues to change, it is critical for digital-first news organizations to strengthen their business models, invest in technical infrastructure and increase trust with their readers. This requires newsrooms to adopt publishing tools that prioritize and enhance audience and business development along with editorial content production. However, finding an affordable and manageable publishing platform is often a challenge for small news outlets with limited budgets and staff capacity.

“For local journalism to remain strong and independent, it must deploy the latest technology solutions to support promising sustainable business models. ” said Jennifer Preston, Knight Foundation vice president for journalism. “We’re proud to invest in the application of robust tools that will help smaller news organizations and outlets reaching underrepresented communities maximize their capabilities for years to come.”

The call for applications is managed by the News Revenue Hub, a nonprofit organization that works with nearly 50 publishers on building membership revenue, growing audience and developing sustainable business practices. In addition to receiving funding, recipients will have access to training sessions led by the News Revenue Hub on utilizing and leveraging business and audience development tools and strategies.

“Having a high quality website and digital infrastructure is not only mission critical for any online news organization that wants to reach and inform as many people as possible, it’s also a necessity for building a sustainable business model,” said Mary Walter-Brown, founder and CEO of the News Revenue Hub. “We are proud to help Knight Foundation facilitate a subsidy fund that paves the way for news outlets to invest in sustainable technology platforms.” 

Alongside the initiative, News Catalyst and Poynter will provide outlets with public overviews of some of the major digital publishing tools on the market, sharing insights on Content Management Systems (CMS) that also provide business solutions for publishers. The two will work together to provide written overviews, demonstrations and Q&A sessions on the digital platforms. 

This opportunity is open to any of the following: 

  • Nonprofit news organizations;
  • News organizations that are led by or serving people of color;
  • News organizations that serve underrepresented communities including rural areas and news deserts

Applicants will be required to explain how an investment in a new or improved content management system will help their organization increase revenue, grow audience and improve user experience.

For more information on the call or to apply, visit kf.org/cms20. To view the platform overviews by News Catalyst and Poynter, visit kf.org/cms20info

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About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy. For more, visit kf.org.


Image (top) by Luca Florio on Unsplash