Table Stakes: Poynter’s Local News Innovation Program

TEACHING DATE: Sept. 2019 — June 2020
LOCATION: The Poynter Institute
COST: $1,500-$7,500, depending on size

Applications closed

Want to increase your digital subscriptions, better engage your community, and focus on projects that turn your newsroom into an engine of revenue? Apply for Poynter’s intensive, hands-on and transformative Table Stakes program.

The local news organizations that completed the first year reported serious results:

  • Increased digital subscriptions: The Statesman Journal increased digital-only subscribers by more than 70% year-over-year. The Post & Courier increased digital-only subscribers by 240%.
  • Improved engagement: The Louisville Courier Journal reduced story volume by 39%, but increased page views per story by more than 40%. The State Journal Register grew their Facebook audience by 10%, tripled the number of Instagram followers and had 20,000 podcast downloads.
  • Diversified revenue: The Beaver County Times created partnerships that led to 40% profit margin on events. Tyler Morning Telegraph launched an in-house digital services agency that is on track to achieve $350,000 in new revenue in its first year.

Poynter’s Table Stakes program is part of the Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative. It is designed to help your local newspaper, public radio station or digital news organization learn what it needs to do to make the successful transition to sustainable digital publishing and build a culture of performance-driven change.

But it doesn’t stop there: Poynter’s Table Stakes program helps you actually make those changes so you can see dramatic results.

This intensive, nine-month program combines in-person gatherings, regular online group seminars and personalized coaching sessions to hold you accountable and help your entire local news organization succeed. You’ll also experience this transformation alongside nine other news organizations of different sizes and from different regions; your cohort will serve as sounding board, motivator and source of inspiration.

“We viewed this as a reinvention of our entire organization. We see this program, and Poynter in general, as a way to stay on top of what’s cutting-edge and make sure we’re not an organization that looks back. We want to stay forward-looking, and Poynter helps with that.”

— Mitch Pugh, Executive Editor, The Post and Courier  


Cheryl Carpenter
Leadership Faculty
The Poynter Institute

Quentin Hope
Independent Consultant

Tom Huang
Assistant Managing Editor
Dallas Morning News

Poynter’s Table Stakes program details

The selected news organizations will gather at Poynter Sept. 4-6, 2019, to dive into the seven Table Stakes for digital publishing, assess their gaps in meeting those requirements and identify specific performance initiatives to close those gaps. Over the next nine months, participants will attend a series of online seminars and coaching sessions to help meet their objectives. The project will conclude virtually with a virtual gathering of all participants on June 24-26, 2020.

Poynter’s Table Stakes program expands the reach of the Knight-Temple Table Stakes program, which enlists four metro newspapers each year to identify and make the baseline changes necessary for legacy newsrooms to compete and succeed in a digital environment.

Key dates

Application Deadline: June 24, 2019

Opening session at Poynter: Sept. 4-6, 2019

Closing session (virtual): June 24-26, 2020 

Program goals

Poynter’s project brings together leadership teams from diverse news organizations for a year-long effort designed to:

  • Provide a pathway, based on the seven Tables Stakes, for transforming your news organization into an audience-focused, digital-first, market-leading, sustainable enterprise.
  • Define specific performance initiatives that will significantly advance your digital transformation and successfully achieve your objectives over the course of the year.
  • Identify and address the underlying skill, role, workflow, technology and culture changes required to achieve the objectives of the performance initiatives you take on.
  • Develop the individual skills and organizational capabilities you’ll need to continue the work beyond the project, using the tools and methodologies of performance-driven change.
  • Develop a peer network of news organizations that you can draw on to share and gain approaches, tools, technology and other resources in your mutual efforts to transform your organizations.

In short, Poynter’s Table Stakes program for local news innovation is challenge-driven. Your organization will define your own digital transformation goals, and then receive the tools, Poynter resources and support you need for your entire newsroom to rise to your challenge.

Who will benefit

The Poynter program is open to all local U.S. newspaper, public radio station and digital news organizations. To be considered for this program, leaders in each organization must commit to full participation in the project.

Application process

To complete the application, you’ll need information for your market numbers, subscribers, circulation numbers and the names of four team members who will participate (they should be in leadership positions overseeing business and/or editorial).

In addition, you will be asked to sign this Memorandum of Understanding to indicate your news organization’s commitment to prioritizing and providing resources to your Table Stakes project.

Program Cost

The yearlong training and individual coaching sessions cost $1,500 to $4,500, depending on annual revenue generated by your news organization.

For newspapers:

  • Sunday circulation exceeding 100,000: $4,500
  • Sunday circulation between 50,000 and 100,000: $3,000
  • Sunday circulation of less than 50,000: $1,500

For broadcast organizations:

  • Market size of 1-10: $7,500
  • Market size of 11-25: $5,000
  • Market size of 26 and below: $3,500

The program cost for digital-only organizations of local or hyperlocal focus is $1,500.

Participants pay for their own travel, lodging, ground transportation, meals outside the sessions, and related expenses for the in-person gatherings. (The program pays for coaching fees, as well as for one dinner and all lunches during the in-person sessions.)

We asked participants from the first year about the value of the program:

“The time investment and hard work definitely pays off. Make it happen.” – Shane Benjamin, The Durango Herald

“This will literally transform the way you view your job. It will guide your interactions with your staff, your colleagues on the business side and your decisions on how to allocate scarce resources.” – Lee Ann Colacioppo, The Denver Post

“I am incredibly appreciative of being a part of this program. This is not just about the big guys. The smaller papers can glean a ton of insight and ideas from the larger papers and use them at their own to create new revenue streams.” – Julie Wallace, The Chronicle-Telegram


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