Newspack joins forces with BlueLena

Newspack is expanding the services it offers digital news organizations by forming a business alliance with BlueLena, a tech marketing services startup that helps publishers develop successful subscription, membership and donation models.

The move coincides with parent company Automattic Inc.’s decision to lead BlueLena’s first investment round along with the Local Media Association, a news industry trade association that focuses on reinventing business models for news.

The Newspack-BlueLena partnership is expected to help both companies acquire new customers and expand the already formidable suite of publishing tools that Newspack offers to small and medium-sized publishers.

It’s a part of a broader trend toward collaboration across the industry, as a wide array of for-profit and not-for-profit organizations are lending support to a burgeoning local news digital startup scene

Newspack was formed three years ago with support from the Google News Initiative, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and the Lenfest Institute for Journalism to help independent digital publishers manage their technology needs at an affordable price.

Led by journalists and engineers alike, it provides a highly customized set of open-source tools that are geared to the needs of small, independent digital publishers. And is home to a community of nearly 800 publishers, editors and producers who are active in its Slack community.

Over 150 publications have joined the platform in just over two years. Publications like Scalawag, which gives voice to marginalized communities in the South or Montana Free Press, which produces in-depth public service journalism across the state.

“Newspack and BlueLena both share a goal of helping small, independent publishers find a path to sustainability in a financially challenging media environment,” said Kinsey Wilson, founder and head of the Newspack project. “And BlueLena is ideally positioned to advance that goal.”

BlueLena was founded in 2020 by news media veterans experienced in subscription and membership management systems, digital audience development and marketing services for small to large publications.

Like Newspack, BlueLena’s client base – 150 publications and growing – represents a diverse mix of nonprofit and for-profit newsrooms, including members of the Local Media Association, the Black Press Association, the National Association of Hispanic Press, LION Publishers, the Institute for Nonprofit News and the Association of Alternative Newsmedia. 

“BlueLena was created to deliver world-class technology and marketing expertise affordably and at-scale, specifically for small-to-midsize publishers,” said Daniel Williams, founder and CEO of BlueLena. “Newspack’s publishing platform and LMA’s leadership will allow us to support more publishers and accelerate their paths to long-term financial sustainability.” 

Newspack, which offers a comprehensive hosted service, is currently priced at between $750-$2,500 a month depending on a publication’s annual revenue. BlueLena starts at $750 a month. Under the terms of the business agreement, Newspack customers will receive a discount off of BlueLena’s standard rate card.

The business proposition for both companies is similar: provide local news publishers with access to some of the same tools that are typically only available to larger organizations and incorporate editorial and business best practices to help local news organizations find a path to a more sustainable economic future. 

The Local Media Association, which joined Automattic in its investment in BlueLena, has a similar mission and earlier this week announced that it was launching a business and technology initiative with 26 Black-owned news outlets financed by the Knight Foundation. The effort builds on an initial project with five Black publishers, most of whom are currently on Newspack.

“Technology is the biggest roadblock when it comes to digital transformation,” said Nancy Lane, CEO, Local Media Association. “That’s why we’re investing in a company, in line with our mission to reinvent business models for news, that can make an immediate impact for small to midsize local media organizations. We’re also excited to do this alongside Automattic, especially with the integration of Newspack’s publishing platform.”