More than 200 independent publishers gathered on the 8th floor the historic Ludington Building in downtown Chicago, IL last week for the 2018 Annual Conference for Local Independent Online (LION) Publishers. (A fun fact for architecture nerds such as myself, the Ludington Building is the earliest steel-frame building still standing in Chicago.) Throughout the three-day conference, attendees heard from industry experts, innovative publishers and partners and had an opportunity to participate in conversations regarding the future of online publishing. Between meeting award-winning publishers from across the country to being face-to-face with representatives from Facebook and Google, this conference was certainly worth the eight hour drive to the Windy City. Here are five takeaways that left us feeling inspired:

Hyper-Local Media is Growing

This year’s conference was bigger than ever, with publishers in attendance from all over the country. Over the past year, LION has grown from 175 members in 50 states to 225 members in 45 states. We are proud to be part of the largest network of independent, online publishers as we continue to learn from our peers, each making an impact in their own community. With many legacy publishers and alt-weeklys making cuts and scaling back, hyper-local publications are stepping up to fill gaps in coverage. It’s a very impressive community of hard working individuals who are passionate about serving their community, and it continues to grow.

Media Literacy is Important

While a Pew Research Study conducted earlier this year found that generally speaking, local media is more trusted than larger publications, there is still much work to be done in increasing media literacy nationwide. We are looking forward to taking a more active role in this conversation here in the Mid-Ohio Valley by partnering with our local libraries and schools to share best practices and resources.

Email is Powerful

While social media has its place in modern marketing, email is still king for content creators. That’s because there are no algorithms determining which emails you receive, and email content lives forever in your inbox until you choose to delete it. Email is still the best way to make sure you see all of Clutch MOV’s content, sent out once a week to deliver positive local content directly to you. No scrolling through social media required!

Facebook Supports Local

Last year, Facebook launched the Facebook Journalism Project and ever since, they have been upping their efforts to support hyper-local media. “Local news is the starting place for great journalism — it brings communities together around issues that are closest to home,” Facebook states on the FJP webpage. “We’re interested in exploring what we can build together with our partners to support local news and promote independent media.” Earlier this year, Facebook found that more than 56% of its US users wanted to see more local content in their news feed. In response, Facebook is developing tools to make this happen, and launching new programs aimed at helping local publishers. Even more impressive, Facebook supported LION Publisher’s general operations this year to the tune of a $100,000 grant.

We Have Access to So Many Tools

Over the course of three info-packed days, it became abundantly clear that local publishers truly have access to an ever-growing number of tools, as well as the incredible wealth of knowledge found within the LION community. Over the past year, LION launched the RAMP (Revenue from Advertising Mentorship Program) to help publishers build sustainable revenue streams, as well as the I-DIG (Impact-Designed Investigative Grants) to support investigative local news. LION also hosted a number of summits, webinars and workshops throughout 2018 to address industry issues and provide support to publishers.

While Clutch MOV is not a hard news publication, we are a hyper-local publisher, telling the stories of Mid-Ohio Valley through editorial coverage of, for and by members of our community. We are so grateful to be part of the LION family and hope to take advantage of more opportunities in 2019!