New Indiegraf publishers now qualify for one year free membership in LION Publishers

Indiegraf and LION Publishers are leaders in entrepreneurial journalism in North America — and now, they’re working together to better support publishers. 

Every new and existing Indiegraf publisher will automatically qualify for one year of free membership with LION. “Independent news outlets need to work together in this new era of journalism, so working with the leading independent publisher association in America felt like a natural way to serve our U.S.-based publishers,” says Joe Lanane, Indiegraf’s Publisher Success Manager, who recently became Indiegraf’s first U.S.-based employee.

Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers is a professional journalism association for independent news publishers. Membership includes access to a large network of other news entrepreneurs, special events and training workshops, exclusive funding opportunities, and other perks. 

“LION is thrilled that our friends at Indiegraf see value in our offerings for members, and we’re excited to welcome this cohort of publishers into our association,” said Chris Krewson, executive director of LION Publishers. “We’ve been hard at work building a suite of benefits — including our recently announced media liability insurance program— that we’re certain will bring meaningful change to members’ businesses, for the better.”

In addition, all US-based Indiegraf partners can also access affordable media liability insurance via LION. We know that this is a serious barrier and risk for so many independent journalists doing hard hitting reporting in their communities. “We’re so pleased LION has created a new way to protect publishers,” says Erin Millar, CEO and co-founder of Indiegraf.

Indiegraf recently opened applications for its new Indie Growth Program for journalist-entrepreneurs. Successful applicants will receive a suite of technology tools, digital marketing services and $2,500 in digital advertising credits that enable them to create sophisticated campaigns to grow email subscribers and reader revenue.

For aspiring publishers, LION Publishers is now offering the first GNI Startups Boot Camp Canada — designed specially to support aspiring Canadian news entrepreneurs. 

Media contact: H.G. Watson, Marketing Manager, Indiegraf. [email protected]

Indie publishers are redefining the comments section

Moderating IndigiNews’s comment section was exhausting for Kelsie Kilawna, a Syilx & Secwépemc storyteller and journalist. “We’re trying to moderate something that is directly attacking us.”

At first, the editorial team aimed to put their 10 intentions into practice, which includes building bridges of understanding and creating communities of learning. But it wasn’t working. “Trying to educate everybody, it just wasn’t good for our own mental health and wellness,” Kilawna says.

Their solution? Prioritize the safety of BIPOC voices. “If you can’t come to our comment section with a good heart and good intention, then you can find another outlet because we just don’t care to engage those kinds of people on our platform,” says Kilawna. “Part of trauma-informed reporting is continuing that work in our comments section.”

Here is how two indie publishers are working to clean up online spaces during periods of growth. 

“If people are really trying to debate our Indigeneity and debate our trauma, then that’s just not the kind of readership that we’re interested in keeping.”

This is especially critical when indie publishers choose to promote posts online to grow their audience. “The comments section completely changes,” says Kilawna. “Almost to the point where we need to pick and choose what [posts] we need to sponsor … depending on our capacity to be able to moderate.”

She says that when people make racist or violent comments, the team also files a screenshot of  the poster’s profile to protect themselves and their readers from threatening behaviour. “We just don’t risk it. We just don’t make space for that.”

For Matthew DiMera, founder and publisher of The Resolve, a publication focused on Black, Indigenous and racialized communities, healthy comment moderation means “evolving from an ‘all speech is important’ mentality to something that’s more aligned with how things actually work online.”

“Trolls attract trolls,” he says. (As DiMera points out in a recent newsletter, this is especially true for Black, Indigenous and racialized people who engage with systemic issues like racism and colonialism online.)

Like Kilawna, he doesn’t argue with commenters. “If I don’t feel like the person’s coming from a genuine place, then this isn’t a place for them,” he says. “If you can sort of keep the space clean within whatever parameters you decide are important, they’ll go elsewhere, and they’ll go to places where they can provoke people and not be challenged.”

“We need to find something that is constructive and healthy.”

A healthy comment future

Both outlets have turned their efforts to the future of online spaces.

A zero-tolerance approach to harmful comments creates space for Indigenous youth to see themselves represented in a positive light, says Kilawna. “I love what we call the ‘auntie and uncle energy’ in our comments section, where people are just cheering each other on.”

IndigiNews is also hoping to bring on community volunteer moderators. “We do have a lot of people who are like, ‘Oh, I’m totally willing to do the labour,’” says Kilawna. “Whereas we can’t, we don’t have that energy.”

At The Resolve, DiMera emphasizes the importance of considering the comments you don’t have. “Is this a space where people feel like their contributions, no matter how big or small, will be welcomed?” 

He’s written extensively about creating space for more meaningful conversations and reflects on how a thoughtful email, though less visible, shows that people are interested in contributing.  “Just because comments are the way that people have traditionally participated doesn’t mean that that’s the way it needs to be going forward,” he says.

“It’s not about how we can get more comments. It’s: How can we engage people wherever they are, in whatever way works for them?”

Whether that’s in a closed online space or offline, they’re committed to this investment long-term, he says.

“These are really challenging and difficult and painful conversations for a lot of people. If people decide that they want to participate one-on-one, as opposed to in a group setting, then that’s what we’ll do.”

Indiegraf announces fall 2021 Indie News Challenge Cohort

Indiegraf is thrilled to announce the newest cohort of the Indie News Challenge. 

From progressive reporting in Toronto to longform journalism for the Prairies and municipal news in Philadelphia, this cohort of INC represents a diverse group of journalists located throughout North America.

What is the Indie News Challenge?

Over nine weeks starting in September, a group of journalist-entrepreneurs from across Canada and the U.S. will work together to build and grow their outlets. Through weekly Zoom seminars, exercises, one-on-one feedback with industry experts and a community of like-minded peers, they’ll learn how to develop their idea into a clear product with early traction that can be presented to funders.  

Indiegraf network members have accomplished so much while enrolled in the program. Ayesha Barmania and Will Pearson expanded Peterborough Currents from 20 to over 2,000 email subscribers, and grew their audience revenue by 1,745 percent. Within weeks of launching, The Breach raised tens of thousands of dollars. The IndigiNews weekly newsletter, established in November 2020, started with a subscriber list of 726 readers. It now has a subscriber list of over 10,000 readers.

Introducing the fourth INC cohort  

We’re excited to welcome these seven projects to INC and the Indiegraf network:

The Hoser

The Hoser is an independent digital media outlet that covers local news in the Greater Toronto Area in Ontario, Canada, with a progressive approach.

Kevin Taghabon is a Toronto-based journalist who graduated from the X School of Journalism in 2020 with a master’s degree after completing an internship at CBC News Toronto’s investigative unit and a semester at The Ryersonian. Taghabon is mostly focused on labour reporting and police violence and has also occasionally written arts and culture reviews. Taghabon is of Mexican and Iranian background and is fluent in Spanish reading and writing.

Co-founder Shannon Carranco is an investigative journalist in Toronto. Since 2017, Carranco has written extensively on the Far Right in Canada with the Montreal Gazette, The National Post and The Globe and Mail. She worked as an associate producer for CBC’s The Fifth Estate in 2019. 

The Hall Monitor

The Philadelphia-based Hall Monitor is a new web-based outlet focusing on local government, poverty and consumer affairs.

Lance Haver is the former director of consumer affairs for the city of Philadelphia, a long-time consumer advocate whose writing appears regularly in Philadelphia newspapers and is currently the Consumer Affairs Reporter for the Philadelphia Hall Monitor.

Denise Clay-Murray is an independent journalist whose work has appeared in a variety of publications including the Philadelphia Sunday Sun, Philadelphia Magazine and the BBC. Lawrence McGlynn is a Philadelphia-based journalist covering the interaction of local government and poverty for the Hall Monitor.

“We focus on stories that directly impact our audience by providing them with news they can use,” says McGlynn.

Afros In Tha City

Kimberley Dooshima Jev is a Calgary-based journalist and the founder of Afros In Tha City, the only media collective of its kind, dedicated to amplifying Black voices in Mohkínstsis/Calgary.

“We are looking to shift our product range into a yearly print publishing project as well as accelerate growth and sustainability of our online memberships,” says Jev.


HeyReprotech is an established newsletter that provides weekly stories about assisted reproduction. From families who promise surrogates an ongoing relationship — but then change their minds after the birth — to evidence on how many eggs you need to freeze to have a real shot at a baby, the newsletter tries to cover all angles.

Alison Motluk has been a freelance journalist for more than two decades, working with CBC radio, The Economist, The Walrus, Toronto Life, Maisonneuve, Hazlitt, Nature, New Scientist and all of Canada’s national papers.

“HeyReprotech launched three years ago to tell the real stories behind assisted reproduction,” says Motluk. “Psychologists, doctors, lawyers, surrogates, academics and others are among my subscribers.”

Rural Women Podcast

The Rural Women Podcast series was created by and for rural innovators that identify as women across Canada. It promotes, amplifies and supports the spirit of rural entrepreneurism. 

Based in rural Southwestern Ontario, Shauna Rae worked in commercial radio for a decade as a reporter, newscaster and talk show host before founding Radar Media and recently launching the Rural Women Podcast.

“There are so many underrepresented voices across Canada, and I feel called to amplify those voices,” says Rae. “I’m starting with rural women; humans who identify as women in rural Canada, striking out on their own, as entrepreneurs, and those that support them.” 

The Flatlander

The Flatlander is a new independent journalism project, chronicling the people, culture and environment that make the Canadian prairies exceptional.

Kelly-Anne Riess is a prairie journalist whose past work can be found in the Globe and Mail, Canadian Geographic and Chatelaine.

“Frequently the prairie region is overlooked by Canada’s national media, and I am hoping The Flatlander provides an online home for the best long-form journalism that covers Manitoba and Saskatchewan,” says Riess.

The Weekly Rant

The Weekly Rant is a platform aimed toward educating people about systemic violence across Turtle Island (North America).

Anushay Sheikh is based in Tkaronto (Toronto) and has lived in Canada since relocating from Saudi Arabia during the height of the Arab Spring. Sheikh is currently a law student with prior experience working for political campaigns.

“We create accessible content, conduct investigative journalism and provide low-cost, high-quality video production resources for queer and BIPOC organizations,” says Sheikh. “Our goal is to create community and amplify the stories and lived experiences of folks who have been actively pushed to the margins.”

The Indie Growth Program

We don’t want anyone to miss out. That’s why we’re now opening applications for a brand new program for North American journalist-entrepreneurs: the Indiegraf Starter Growth Program. Apply here.

Indiegraf accepting applications for new Indie Growth Program

Indiegraf is now accepting applications from North American publishers for our new Indie Growth Program.

Successful applicants will receive a suite of technology tools, digital marketing services and $2,500 in digital advertising credits that enable them to create sophisticated campaigns to grow email subscribers and reader revenue.

“The past five years has seen small independent publishers popping up everywhere to fill news gaps. With a little support they can increase the impact of homegrown journalism,” says Erin Millar, CEO and co-founder of Indiegraf, a platform that makes it easier for independent community news outlets to achieve sustainability. “For the past 18 months, Indiegraf has been working hard with our first 30+ publishers to develop tested ways to grow independent community news. This new program allows us to share these innovations with publishers that are ready to boost their audience and revenue.”

The Indie Growth Program is for existing independent news organizations or new projects ready to grow email subscription and reader revenue businesses. While every project and market is different, the Indie Growth Program aims to give participants a lean, tested pathway to build their audience and revenue, help projects grow up to 1,000 new email subscribers, and generate $5,000 or more in reader revenue. 

Successful applicants get execution help from the Indiegraf team, access to Indiegraf’s online playbook and Slack community, a suite of technology tools that will create advanced email subscriber growth and reader revenue campaigns, and $2,500 in digital advertising credits.

Other publishers have accomplished so much while enrolled in similar programs offered by Indiegraf. The Palm Springs Post doubled its email subscribers and launched a founding member campaign that achieved more than 150 per cent of its target. Ayesha Barmania and Will Pearson expanded Peterborough Currents from 20 to over 2,000 email subscribers, and grew their audience revenue by 1,745 per cent. Within weeks of launching, The Breach raised tens of thousands of dollars. The IndigiNews weekly newsletter, established in November 2020, started with a subscriber list of 726 readers. It now has over 10,000. 

Publishers who successfully complete this program may qualify for either the Standard or Pro Growth Program offered by Indiegraf. These programs are designed to further grow independent news publishers on the path to sustainability. They include advanced technology tools, additional funding, audience development and sponsorship sales resources, and online playbooks and toolkits aimed at developing diversified revenue streams. 

Interested applicants should apply here. Get in touch with CEO and co-founder Erin Millar and Publisher Success Manager Joe Lanane to ask all your questions.

MEDIA CONTACT: H.G. Watson, [email protected]

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