Word In Black’s 10 partner publishers are about to get a digital boost. That’s because the Knight Foundation and Local Media Association announced on Monday that they’re joining forces for the Knight x LMA BloomLab, a groundbreaking initiative that focuses on providing technology upgrades, business transformation consulting, and shared learning opportunities for local publishers of color.

To achieve those goals, the Knight Foundation launched the Knight x LMA BloomLab at Local Media Association with initial funding of $3.2 million. Those funds will enable the lab to expand from supporting the digital growth of the 10 Word In Black publishers to including 26 Black-owned media outlets over the next three years. Each news outlet will receive $50,000 technology grants to help them continue their digital transformations.

“Since establishing sustainability for publishers of color as one of our four core pillars in 2018, the LMA has helped nearly 100 BIPOC organizations with business transformation, monetization and audience-building strategies,” says Nancy Lane, Chief Executive Officer of Local Media Association, which manages the Word In Black collaborative. 

“The Knight x LMA BloomLab will take these efforts to a whole new level as we will be able to provide unprecedented resources, specifically focused on technology, to a group of 26 Black-owned-and-operated media organizations,” Lane says. “We’re thrilled to partner with the Knight Foundation on this groundbreaking industry initiative.”

More funding is expected, which will increase each publisher’s allocation to $80,000 and allow LMA to add additional cohorts of Black-owned publishers.

The Lab is an extension of LMA’s Digital Transformation Lab for Black publishers, which launched in 2019. It helped increase digital revenue and audience growth, and allowed publishers to launch new products, like newsletters.

“The LMA Digital Transformation Lab [2018-2020] introduced me to a whole new world of digital strategies, tactics, resources, and tools. The hands-on customized training recognized my limitations, yet challenged me to experiment and embrace new technology taking calculated risks,” says Sonny Messiah Jiles, CEO and publisher of Defender Media Group, one of Word In Black’s partner publishers. 

“The result was the construction of a new Defender on multiple platforms, providing better service to our readers, advertisers, and community. With the Knight x LMA BloomLab, we can invest in the infrastructure necessary to help train our staff, purchase new equipment, and fine-tune our strategies ensuring our sustainability.”

The Lab investment allowed Andrew Ramsammy, LMA Chief Content & Collaboration Officer,  and Jay Small, LMA Chief Operating Officer, to hire three full-time employees to the team who will work with the publishers daily: Robert Walker-Smith, digital revenue director, and Apryl Pilolli, technology director. A program director/coach will be named soon. These new team members offer expert advice on smart tech and business strategies, along with directly providing funds to help the cohort publications continue to transform.

“Thanks to the LMA Lab, we were able to significantly grow our digital revenue and audience, especially around newsletters and promotions,” says Elinor Tatum, publisher and owner of the New York Amsterdam News, one of Word In Black’s partner publishers. “The Knight x LMA Bloom Lab will help take our transformation to a whole new level. We’re especially excited about the technology stipends and dedicated resources to help us execute.” 

Applications for the second cohort, which will include eight publishers, will open in Spring 2022. The third cohort will be announced in early 2023. 

Other projects included in the Knight Foundation’s investments are Capital B, URL Media, and the International Women’s Media Foundation’s Gwen Ifill Mentorship Program.

Learn more about the Knight Foundation’s strategy to support local news.