15 AAN Publishers Receive a Total of $300,000 in the First Cohort of Transformation Tech

We are excited to announce the successful completion of the first cohort of the Transformation Tech program in Q3 of 2023. The hard work and commitment of 15 AAN publishers have culminated in $20,000 each, or $300,000 total from the Google News Initiative (GNI) to further their digital revenue goals.

“Over the last few years, the speed of technological advancement has been intense, and as a publisher, I have at times felt paralyzed amid some pretty big themes such as audience development/paid readership, non-profit, CPM vs sponsorship, ad blocks/tiered access, post covid/remote office project management,” said Matthew Steele, publisher of Little Village in Iowa City, Iowa. “Transformation Tech presenters and coaches brought together organizations that got deep on all of these topics, in many cases with sustained research over the years. That their learnings were so intentionally seeded out to a diverse group of publishers is incredibly important.”

Our first AAN graduates of Transformation Tech are Dallas Voice, C-Ville Weekly, The American Prospect, The Pitch (Kansas City), Santa Barbara Independent, Pittsburgh City Paper, Salt Lake City Weekly, Illinois Times, Erie Reader, The Paper (Albuquerque), New Times (San Luis Obispo), City Pulse (Lansing, Mich.), Little Village (Iowa City), The Source Weekly (Bend, Ore.) and Reno News & Review.

“I’ve been involved in AAN for almost a quarter-century, and this is the largest outside investment into our member publications I can recall, by far,” said Jimmy Boegle, the AAN board president and a participant in the first cohort as the publisher of the Reno News & Review. “These grant dollars will be truly transformative in helping our members increase digital revenues and outreach.”

Each member publication was paired with a coach who helped them walk through the creation of a Revenue Transformation Plan to set a SMART goal for generating new digital revenue and showing return on investment. The coaches for the first cohort were a fabulous cast of industry professionals: Michael Grant (Get Current Studio), Maple Walker Lloyd (Block Club Chicago), Cassidy Frazier (Austin Chronicle), Caro Martinez Vera and Selene Santes (Altura Interactive) and Meena ​​Thiruvengadam (Meena Media).

Transformation Tech is managed by the Fund for Equity in Local News (FELN), a collaborative effort between AAN, the National Association of Hispanic Publishers (NAHP), and the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), aka “the Black Press.” With the support of our fiscal sponsor, the Alternative Newsweekly Foundation, and funding from the GNI, the FELN collaboration has brought the Transformation Tech initiative to life and witnessed its immediate impact.

FELN’s executive director is Ashley Woods Branch, a highly sought coach, industry leader and former local publisher, whose hard work and vision have been instrumental in guiding this initiative to success. Under her guidance, Transformation Tech seeks to help as many as 240 local publishers create new digital revenue streams with high-quality coaching, SMART goals and investment dollars to get those digital dollars flowing.

“This unprecedented infusion of grant dollars for AAN members is a testament to the vision and leadership of the AAN board of directors, in particular past presidents John Heaston and Graham Jarrett, who have overseen AAN’s involvement in FELN and interaction with the Google News Initiative and others,” said AAN Association Manager Todd Stauffer, who also serves as Transformation Tech’s lab director, devising the curriculum and overseeing the coaches that work with publishers to develop their strategies.

If you’re an AAN (or NAHP or NNPA) publisher who hasn’t yet applied for Transformation Tech, the application window is now open. (If you have applied previously, you’re already in the mix and don’t need to apply again.) We encourage all publishers who are members in good standing with your association to apply. Transformation Tech is a golden opportunity to create new digital revenue streams with investment from the GNI to help you reach those goals. Publishers are free to invest in any revenue or growth experiment that best suits their business so long as they can demonstrate how it will financially benefit their news organization.

We extend hearty congratulations to the 15 AAN publishers who have set the bar high for future cohorts. Your success is our success, and we look forward to achieving many more milestones together.