Accelerate Local announces Digital Transformation Lab for publishers of color

According to a recent Local Media Association survey, African-American newspaper owners, like many other media outlets, are concerned about the future of their publications and struggle with digital transformation — only 9.5 percent of their revenue comes from digital.

Accelerate Local, designed to reinvent business models for news, today announced its first stand-alone project: a six-month digital transformation lab for African-American newspapers. The Atlanta VoiceThe Dallas WeeklyNew York Amsterdam News, Houston Defender and The Washington Informer will serve as pilot partners in this unique lab. The five pilot partners have been in business an average of 75+ years and have strong ties to their communities.

“The Black Press, like the rest of the local media industry, needs help when it comes to digital transformation strategies,” explained Nancy Lane, president of Local Media Association. “We are delighted to launch the first industry effort focused on a strong digital future for publishers of color. We invite other funders, R&D partners and philanthropists to join our efforts and help this important segment of the local media industry.”

Accelerate Local, owned by LMA, will invest six figures in this lab that will feature three phases over six months:

  • Assessment and analysis of short- and long-term opportunities — conducted by Accelerate Local’s managing director, Peter Newton (former chief operating officer for GateHouse Media and a former executive at and The Boston Globe);
  • Testing phase — each publisher will choose 2-3 projects, designed to drive digital revenue and/or audience in collaboration with Newton, based on a customized report that he will deliver to each participant;
  • Debriefing, industry playbook and a 12- to 18-month roadmap plan for each publisher.

Extensive resources from Accelerate Local will include regular coaching calls and onsite visits with Newton, sales training and joint sales calls from LMA’s Director of Member Development, Jack Zavoral, and regular cohort meetings with the five publishers (both in-person and via video calls). An industry playbook will be made available to all publishers of color at the end of the program.

“I am extremely excited about the opportunity to participate in the Digital Subscription Lab,” said Janis Ware, the publisher and owner of The Atlanta Voice. “As usual, LMA finds itself on the cutting edge of our industry and as it continues its pursuit of innovation in our media space, I’m thrilled to be along for the ride.”

The lab will also include pro bono work from some of LMA’s most engaged R&D partners, including Second Street. The Accelerate Local team seeks additional R&D partners to participate in this project.

“We have learned a lot from the three labs that are currently underway focusing on digital subscriptions, branded content and data strategies,” said Jed Williams, chief strategy officer, Accelerate Local and LMA. “We couldn’t be more excited to launch digital transformation for publishers of color as our first stand-alone Accelerate Local project. We are passionate about the role of the black press in North America and look forward to working with these five progressive publishers to reinvent business models for news.”

Janis Ware

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