Hyperlocal Trade Org Boosts Membership

The hyperlocal news trade organization has added several online publishers to its membership ranks as part of its initial membership drive, including Riverhead Local, Charlottesville Tomorrow, Twin Cities Daily Planet, The Ann Arbor Chronicle and Plaza de Armas.
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A nascent trade organization for hyperlocal news sites has added dozens of online publishers to its ranks in an initial membership drive, its chair said on Monday.

Local Independent Online News notched about 60 members in a monthlong drive that began in November, said Dylan Smith, LION's chair and publisher/founder of the nonprofit Tucson Sentinel website in Arizona. The group also added two new members to its board, which now totals 11 directors.

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"It was really quite heartening that so many people showed a confidence in what we're trying to do," Smith said. "The majority of publishers paid dues up front for the next three years."

Those publishers range from sites across the country including New York's Riverhead Local, Virginia's Charlottesville Tomorrow, Minneapolis/St. Paul’s Twin Cities Daily Planet, The Ann Arbor Chronicle and San Antonio's Plaza de Armas.

Smith said that initial member benefits include access to insurance deals on media liability, health and directors' and officers' coverage previously negotiated by a sister trade organization, the Investigative News Network. A series of webinars is scheduled kick off in the new year.

LION will also try to migrate a lively Facebook discussion group for independent online publishers on to its own site to better organize conversations and make them more searchable, Smith said.

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"It's really about creating tools and a platform where publishers can help other publishers," he said, noting that the challenges many of these small shops face in 2013 continue to be hefty. "Even if they're not a one-man show, it's hard to do both editorial and revenue," he said. "Doing a good job at both is the biggest challenge."

Another challenge will be mounting the hyperlocals' annual fall conference, Block by Block, whose three-year funding from the Patterson Foundation came to an end this year.

"I don't know if we're going to continue with the Block by Block moniker or if we're going to kick off with something new," Smith said. "We're moving ahead trying to get a good pitch together to funders as to where we want to take the idea of the conference."

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