Phillip Smith

Want to launch a local news business? Apply now for the journalism entrepreneurship boot camp

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

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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 the 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 apply to the second phase of the GNI Startups Lab program, which will help participants to further grow their project from a plan into a news business – one with loyal customers and recurring revenue.

And, the best news of all: the only cost for you to participate is your time. You can apply today, right here. Applications are due by August 17.

Google News Initiative Startups Lab

This journalism entrepreneurship boot camp – the first of its kind when piloted in 2018 – was born of more than two decades of experience working with startup digital newsrooms. Over that time, I saw reporters and upstart publishers struggle again-and-again with the same challenges of turning their passion and skills into a viable business that paid the bills. It was a problem that I believed could be solved.

Three years ago, I took that burning question – “How might it be possible to better equip people to succeed at creating financially-sustainable news businesses?” – into a year-long fellowship at Stanford University. There I studied every entrepreneurial offering available, both at Stanford and across the U.S. I took classes. I participated in boot camps run by others. I attended a “startup school.” I spent months shadowing experts in the field and got certified as a startup coach. All of my passion and experience over the last decade, and everything I learned in these last three years, is at the core of the journalism entrepreneurship boot camp.

The curriculum is laser-focused, and immensely practical. It’s infused with my own experience as the CTO of an award-winning local online newsroom, and has been battle-tested with more than a dozen news startups. And I’m honored, humbled, and fired up to be able share all of this with you again.

Over the last several weeks I’ve burned the midnight oil with my colleagues at LION Publishers and Google News Initiative to put together the program details outlined below, and we’ve tried our best to anticipate your questions.

If you have questions not covered here, there are three information sessions planned between now and the application deadline, August 17:

  • Tuesday, July 21 8–8:30 a.m. PT (RSVP)
  • Wednesday, August 5 at 2:30–3 p.m. PT (RSVP)
  • Thursday, August 13 noon–12:30 PT (RSVP)

Finally, as part of the GNI Startups Lab effort, we’re building an online community of practice and peer learning that’s open to anyone who’s passionate about news startups, “micro media empires,” tiny news organizations, and the intersection of journalism and entrepreneurship. If you’re ready to meet like-minded people and dive into the weeds of running a news business, join the community here.

With the above out of the way, let’s move on to the Frequently Asked Questions for the boot camp, which I’ve posted here on Medium so I only have to update them in one place.

Let me know if you have any questions. I look forward to your application!


Hi, I'm Phillip Smith, a veteran digital publishing consultant, online advocacy specialist, and strategic convener. If you enjoyed reading this, find me on Twitter and I'll keep you updated.


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