Below are answers to questions we’ve received. If you want to learn more about how Indiegraf works and ask your questions, get in touch.
What is Indiegraf?
Indiegraf is a network of small and startup community news outlets pooling technology, capital, audience and revenue resources to accelerate their growth. We are on a mission to make local news entrepreneurship a great career and life choice for journalists everywhere.
Indiegraf adds capacity, lowers costs and creates new revenue opportunities so publishers can focus on what’s most important: serving their communities with quality journalism.
What does Indiegraf offer media entrepreneurs and small publishers?
We have different services that attend to different needs, depending on the publisher’s growth stage. Our partner publishers utilize a combination of audience growth services and revenue support using Indiegraf-built technology.
As media outlets grow, the services we provide can be adapted through our Basic, Standard, Pro or Specialized tiers. These tiers provide a tech stack optimized for small publishers as well as audience growth services and financing options via the News Startup Fund.
To learn more, get in touch with our Publisher Success Manager Joe Lanane.
Who can join the Indiegraf network?
The Indiegraf network is open to all journalist-entrepreneurs, no matter their stage of growth. You are eligible to join the network if:
- Your publication is based in the U.S. and/or Canada.
- You have identified a clear information need or have audience traction
- Your publication focuses on local news, media criticism or community information that is relevant to the general public. Business-to-business news and industry-specific outlets are unlikely to join the network
- You produce high-impact content your target audience won’t find elsewhere in the market
- You are committed to equitable coverage and truth-telling
- You intend to grow frequency, distribution and your team as the operation grows
- You are enthusiastic about growing organic audience via social media and/or in-person events
- You are willing to pursue audience revenue and are interested in other revenue streams (sponsorships/ads, major gifts, events, listings, etc.)
- You meet our technical requirements (see below)
What tech do I need to join the network? Do I have to use Indiegraf’s CMS?
Indiegraf sets technical requirements for working with publishers to ensure we can deliver high-quality support and services in line with publisher expectations. Keep in mind we need administrative-level privileges to effectively utilize each of these tools. The following requirements represent minimum qualifications for working together:
Content Management System (CMS)
Indiegraf builds beautiful websites that connect all the growth tools necessary for publishers to succeed. We require all full-service network partners to also work from:
- WordPress, on a custom-built theme developed by Indiegraf
- Ghost (Mailchimp required for full-service support)
Indiegraf also has a proven track record of migrating content from other CMS platforms, including:
Access to a professional domain that matches the publication’s brand. The project should not be attached to a personal brand or identity. In order to work together, we seek access to:
- DNS Settings
- Domain provider login credentials
Email Service Provider (ESP)
Network publishers must use a qualified email service provider in order to qualify for direct audience services. Your ESP platform must allow for automated capabilities, including a welcome series, and a drag-and-drop UI because Indiegraf cannot write custom code. Current ESP platforms we support include:
- Letterhead (Tiny News Collective publishers only)
Data Analytics tool
At minimum, a network publisher must provide Indiegraf with Administrative-level access to real-time data analytics so we can effectively monitor and analyze your performance. However, we prefer to work with Google Analytics (Universal Analytics + GA4).
In order to qualify for support on reader revenue campaigns and other revenue generation, Indiegraf must have Administrative-level access to your reader revenue tool in order to effectively analyze results and track revenue we helped you earn. Our operation currently integrates with Stripe (separate accounts needed for audience and sponsorship revenue).
For publishers that use a payment system (e.g. Pico, Donorbox, Little Green Light) that connects with Stripe payment processor, we can migrate the Stripe subscriptions to our payment system (Pelcro) so long as the subscriptions are managed and generated in Stripe.
For publishers that use a payment system that connects with a payment processor other than Stripe (e.g. PayPal, iATS), it is also possible to migrate customer information to Stripe and capture those paying subscribers in our payment system (Pelcro) as long as the payment processor manages both payments and subscriptions.
Indiegraf requires secure, administrative-level access to a payment processor to effectively support partner publishers. Most fiscal sponsors are unable to share this high-level access, and we cannot effectively navigate campaign work without that data visibility. As a result, Indiegraf cannot work long-term with a publication that is already supported by another fiscal sponsor. However, we can support your fiscal sponsorship, potentially saving money and adding services in the process using the following tools:
Indiegraf requires administrative-level access to Google Ad Manager. Google Ad Manager accounts are free but cannot be created unless you have an active AdSense account. The Indie Ads team can work with publishers to get these accounts set up:
- Google AdSense
- Google Ad Manager
- Bundle (future)
Social media access
We run lead generation ads to grow your email subscriber list using your social media accounts. These are the social media requirements:
- Facebook page (admin-level access)
- Custom URL
- Professional email attached to URL/page (as opposed to personal)
- Helps us set up lead ad Disclaimer
- Other platforms as needed/requested
What makes Indiegraf’s technology different from other content management systems?
We’ve built a bundle of technology tools that are optimized to help small digital publishers. You don’t need to be able to code to set up a beautiful news site. All the plugins and tools you need are already integrated, and we work with you to bring your brand to life through our system. A dedicated development team is shared between our publishers to ensure the technology is maintained and improved without costing an arm and a leg. And you access the tech tools you need for cheaper, because we can share the cost of digital subscriptions across the network.
If I sign up for your technology am I stuck with you forever?
No! You own your content, audience, supporters and data. You’re free to switch to another technology platform later on if Indiegraf doesn’t work for you. We want you to stay because we’ve done an awesome job, not because you’re trapped in a multi-year contract.
Are outlets working with Indiegraf editorially independent?
Yes. One of the things that we think is broken with the current system is that, ultimately, a lot of news outlets aren’t accountable to the people they serve. We see our role as supporting independently-owned publications in coming up with great journalism products. We’re here to give advice and share best practices. We ask that our publishers meet minimum frequency requirements and practice journalistic ethics. But really, it’s up to publishers to independently define what editorial value they’re creating for their community.
How is Indiegraf funded?
Indiegraf’s goal is to be an independent company that succeeds when our publishers succeed. We are working to prove out a business model that is funded by the fees we receive from the publishers we serve. Our publishers pay either a monthly fee or a share of the revenue we help them earn. This business model allows us to focus on serving publishers above any other stakeholder by aligning our incentives with theirs.
We aim to grow our publisher-based revenues to sustainable levels by the end of 2023. While we prove out our business model, we also rely on funding from impact investors. We have raised capital from institutional investors like New Media Ventures and Marigold Capital, as well as individuals who are committed to investing in a healthier future for community news.
We have also received funding sponsorships from organizations including Inspirit Foundation, the Meta Journalism Project and the Google News Initiative.
How is Indiegraf connected to The Discourse?
Indiegraf grew out of the work of The Discourse, an award-winning local news publisher based in British Columbia. They share a mission: to contribute to a more equitable and sustainable news industry so that everyone has access to quality journalism. But they contribute to that mission in different ways. The Discourse produces local journalism for community members. Indiegraf serves news publishers, empowering entrepreneurial journalists to succeed. Discourse Media, the company that operates The Discourse, owns part of Indiegraf, but they are completely separate entities.
Indiegraf has received funding from Google and Meta. Do they have a say over Indiegraf or its publishers?
Indiegraf launched with sponsorship support from four organizations: the Google News Initiative, Meta Journalism Project, Inspirit Foundation and Discourse Media. Google and Meta (Facebook) provided arms-length seed funding that underwrote part of the cost of providing Indiegraf services to its first 10 publishers. Since then, the Meta Journalism Project has provided additional financial support for our programs.
These organizations don’t own any part of Indiegraf or its partner publishers. Neither company has any say in Indiegraf decision-making, nor are we under any obligation to use their products.
How can you help market to my community if you’re not connected to it yourself?
Relevance and connection to community is a critical part of successful community-powered journalism. We’ve developed a replicable model that involves listening to local communities through regular community interviews, social media engagement, surveying and analytics and testing. This process allows us to develop a marketing and revenue strategy that is customized to each community. We collaborate closely with the journalists closest to the communities they serve to ensure our campaigns are locally relevant and compelling.
How do you choose your publishers?
We’re looking to connect with entrepreneurial journalists and small publishers that have identified an audience with a genuine need for journalism. We’re excited to support projects that we think have a good chance of succeeding, but that aren’t there yet. We find it meaningful to help publishers realize untapped potential, so we love getting involved early in the process. We’re also dedicated to contributing to a more equitable news industry, so we want to connect with diverse journalists who are connected to underserved communities.