The ins-and-outs of “first-party data.” What it is, how you can gather it, and why it can give you an advantage over the big tech platforms with your advertisers.

(This post builds on episode II of the Journalism Growth Club podcast. Subscribe today and never miss a show!)

Remember that time you took the whole newsroom staff to Burning Man? Okay, maybe that didn’t happen, but I suspect you might have attended an event at some point in the past like IRE, NICAR, ONA, or something by LION Publishers, INN, Poynter, or what-have-you.

(Remember when we could attend events in person?)

When you registered for that event, you probably gave the organizers all kinds of information about yourself without even thinking about it: your email address, name, phone number…


Helping publishers who want to grow their audience and revenue online

The short version of this post is: In January I quietly launched a new company called Journalism Growth Lab. The aim is to help established publishers grow their audience and find paying customers using advertising platforms like Facebook, Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tik Tok, YouTube, etc. You can find out more here.

The long version is a bit more nuanced, because this new direction came as a bit of a surprise to me, and you might find a few surprises below too. So, if you’re interested, read on…

What’s old is new again

The truth is, Journalism Growth Lab is a real latecomer on the scene.


Apply by midnight Monday, Aug 17, 2020

Back in 2019, I shared why I believe that journalists make great entrepreneurs.

My friend Katherine Rowlands, owner of Bay City News and Bay City News Foundation, wrote to me shortly after with some feedback from her entrepreneurial experience. She said while skills from the journalism world can translate to certain aspects of entrepreneurship, she had observed that sometimes they don’t translate perfectly to the day-to-day practices of running a for-profit or non-profit business.

For example, here are a few questions Katherine highlighted that journalists might find challenging to answer:

  • How do you…

How you can increase your chances of getting accepted, and what we’re looking for in prospective candidates.

Photo from News Foundry, November 2018. News Foundry was an in-person boot camp with similar aims.

Back in 2018, shortly after the first cohort of journalism entrepreneurship boot camp participants graduated, I reached out to many friends, advisors, and colleagues for input on how to grow the boot camp beyond the pilot phase.

One of the colleagues I reached out to was Josh Stearns at the Democracy Fund. He asked a deeply challenging question that I was not expecting, which was “How much are the people you choose actually the secret sauce [of the boot camp and its outcomes] versus the curriculum itself?”

I wasn’t expecting it because I’d had the same question of many journalism…


A custom-made program for people who are ready to create a viable business based on delivering reported news or information

I’m excited to announce that applications are now open again for the journalism entrepreneurship boot camp. And I’m even more excited to share that the boot camp is now part of the newly announced Google News Initiative Startups Lab that is being piloted in partnership with LION Publishers, an association for independent digital news startups.

The first phase of our GNI Startups Lab will include an eight-week fully-remote boot camp that includes live online classes, one-on-one coaching and peer learning. Upon completion of the program, participants will also receive a free year-long membership to LION Publishers, and the opportunity to…


Photo by Gerd Altmann from Pexels

A little preparation can go a long way toward de-risking your business model

“It’s at those moments of sharp sudden change, when the system is being shocked and shaken in various ways, that we might have the greatest opportunity to change things.” — Thomas Homer-Dixon, Author of The Upside of Down.

Back in 2004, a few close colleagues and I decided to test a novel(ish) theory and the lessons have stuck with me to this day. Specifically, I’ve found those lessons regularly infusing my thinking over the years, and they seem particularly relevant for the unusual world we live in today.

The theory was, in a nutshell, that it was possible to develop…


Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

When I first stumbled on the paid acquisition tactics being used by fast-moving digital-first publishers back in 2008, I had a lightbulb moment: if a publisher could take a newsletter subscriber from casual reader to rabid fan to paying supporter to ambassador, there was a case for paid acquisition of that subscriber. It was really that simple.

Over the last 10 years, I’ve been obsessed with the topic of paid acquisition for newsrooms. I’ve worked with publishers to implement it. I’ve produced research and given presentations on it. I co-host a Slack channel for people in newsrooms who are experimenting…


One of the journalism entrepreneurs that I’ve been most inspired to watch recently is Kara Mayberg Guzman at Santa Cruz Local. Like a page out of the playbook that I documented on how many news startups come to life, Kara saw a lack of coverage in her own community and left her job in a daily print newsroom and took a leap of faith to build something new.

And like many journalists who’ve taken this path, Kara and her co-founder Stephen decided to — at least, as the first step — start a business. This may seem like a small…


The surprising thing about these examples is that they might not look like what you’d expect.

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to be a fly on the wall at the annual Scripps Howard Journalism Entrepreneurship Institute. The institute is run by Dan Gillmor and Michelle Ferrier and is attended by university-level journalism professors from across the U.S. While there, I shared more than 20 examples of what I believe are signs of a growing movement of news and information startups.

(If you’re in a hurry, just jump to the list below.)

The surprising thing about these examples is that they might not look like what you’d expect. Many of these were new to…


Photo by Anthony DELANOIX on Unsplash

The journey to establish true fans is a hidden opportunity to refine your value proposition

This essay, started two weeks ago — where does the time go!? — seems particularly timely in light of several recent articles about How much people make from email newsletters, Should you start a newsletter, and The New Social Network That Isn’t New At All. Each of these articles touches on the idea of speaking directly to your “true fans,” which is what I’ve been thinking about lately.

I started jotting down notes after reading this excellent interview by Simon Owens recently. He was interviewing John Yedinak, the co-founder (along with his brother George Yedinak) of a “ B2B media…

Phillip Smith

👉 My passion is helping: 💰 Newsrooms make more money; 📈 News startups grow their audience; 🔥 Journalists succeed as entrepreneurs. Let’s talk 📩

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