Block Party Chicago 2023: Should It Happen?

Michelle McLellan started the Block by Block conference in 2010 to bring together independent news publishers across the US. The successor was LION, founded in 2012.

The early days of LION were scrappy — very scrappy. Many of us remember those conferences:

  • Actionable, revenue-focused content from other publishers
  • Extremely friendly atmosphere with many ideas exchanged
  • A pioneering spirit
  • At least one kilt
  • Pretty much nothing else

And it was a lot of fun, due in part to the nights out and the legendary trip led by Dylan Smith to the Billy Goat tavern — in what became an annual tradition.

Some publishers, including past and current LION members, are thinking seriously about a meetup to hit that same note. This may not happen, and if it does, it may only happen once. And we’re probably limited to 100 attendees.

Working Title: Block Party: Building the Future for Local News Revenue

Where: Columbia College in Chicago, Film Row (the original spot)

When: October 6th and 7th, 2023

Who’s Definitely Going (So Far) If It Happens: Maria Archangelo, Ryan Belmore, Kim Clark, Will Hill, Kenny Katzgrau, Krystal Knapp, Bill Macfadyen, Michael McGinnis, Howard Owens, Carol Robidoux, Dylan Smith, John T. Ward

Sponsors: Broadstreet, Center for Cooperative Media

What We’re Aiming to Include

  • Ad/Sponsorship Sales (Meetings, Options, Packaging)
  • Paid Subscriber Growth + Strategies
  • Automation of Processes (Zapier, CRMs, Airtable, ChatGPT)
  • Hiring and outsourcing (VAs, freelancers, back offices)
  • Data and analytics (for both advertising and audience)
  • Lots of Peer Wisdom (lightning talks, wisdom tables, panels)
  • Billy Goat

This is for You, If …

  • You’re an established publisher (or a startup wanting to learn from established publishers)
  • If you want to hear from and meet other publishers doing what you’re doing
  • You don’t want to attend a big conference where only 10-20% of the talks apply to you
  • You want to come away with a real return on investment: actionable ideas that will push you forward

It Might Not Happen

There are already a ton of local news conferences, including those hosted by LION today. Maybe we’re satisfied with those. Or maybe we can complement them with a meetup where clear plans and real peer connections are the desired outcome — the spirit of the early days.

The only way we’ll know whether to move forward is if you say “hell yes, make it happen” by informally RSVP-ing. If you RSVP “yes,” we’ll get you on an email list. There is the expectation that you sincerely intend to go if you do that.

I wouldn’t still be standing if not for those Chicago sessions and the fellowship of the publishers. A lot has changed in nine years but at the core that those of us who have learned some things together – those with whom I can relate and continue to learn from.

Carol Robidoux