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  • Writer's pictureHani Barghouthi

'A huge boost': What happened during Indie News Week?

Hani Barghouthi shares some highlights and insights from the first public campaign to support the UK’s indie news sector, with a touch of gleeful bragging about its success on behalf of PINF and the participating publishers.  



No News is Bad News, but we’ve heard nothing but good news from the publishers who took part in Indie News Week and the £50,000 Indie News Fund last month.  


To recap, Indie News Week was designed as a UK-wide coordinated campaign with a simple hypothesis: if we work with publishers to improve direct community engagement, then awareness of the importance of their work and the funds to support it will follow.  


The campaign was rolled out online and in print, and publishers held in-person events. Alongside the campaign, we ran the Indie News Fund, a match-funding programme for 24 publishers, each with a bespoke fundraising target that, if met, PINF will double.  


While final fundraising figures are tallied and before everyone’s eyes turn to exit polls in a few hours, we thought we’d share some of the things we learned about running the UK’s first campaign and match-funding programme for indie news.  


So, how did it go?


‘It's been a huge shot in the arm for me. I had been feeling quite despondent about the future in the lead-up to Indie News Week, so to have a successful fundraiser and in-person event has been a real boost. Seeing other people's work has helped too.’  

Community engagement 


More than 40 publishers participated in the campaign, with titles in 60 UK communities. The publishers hit the ground running and embraced the campaign, bringing lots of creativity and enthusiasm that breathed life into it.


Nearly 50 in-person community events took place in June, from Shetland to Eastbourne and from Belfast to Gwynedd and Norwich. At every event, publishers engaged in important conversations about the needs of UK communities and the journalists that report on them.  


Before the campaign launched, publishers in our network expressed hesitation (bordering on suspicion) of the requirement to hold an in-person event.  


Thankfully, participants still brought a lot of dedication and even more creativity in holding their events. Those included:  

  • News cafes, market stands and open newsrooms; 

  • A standup comedy night, a pub quiz and (not one, but) two beer-themed evenings; 

  • Museum exhibits, guided history tours and a big island tour; and 

  • A whole journalism conference! 


It was a huge relief when participants began describing the events as engaging, generative and, crucially, a lot of fun. They gave them insights directly from their audiences about what works in their coverage and what doesn’t, and made them feel more connected to their communities and to fellow news providers.  


‘One of the important aspects of this campaign was not just the availability of match-funding … but the simple act of making contact with others in the same position. Doing solo independent news (often unpaid, as in my case) is a real mission we all believe in but it can be isolating. Nothing replaces real newsroom banter, but shared wisdom and interaction with others is vital. Human contact is everything.’  

‘It's shown me the importance of breaking out of social media noise, which is starting to become more of a burden than an opportunity.’ 

Nearly every publisher we’ve spoken to now has plans to hold regular in-person events, and we are so excited to see what kind of community connections these will build.  


We can only assume that the audiences themselves felt similarly invigorated based on what we have seen so far from the other main goal of the campaign:  


Fundraising  


Though we are waiting on final figures from some publishers, what we know so far about the financial component of the campaign has been pretty awe-inspiring. 


In the run up to the campaign, we worked with publishers to set individual fundraising targets based on their capacity and audience. We’ve been delighted to find out that most publishers smashed their targets, with two raising double and one raising triple the amount they had hoped to!  


Whether participating in the match fund or not, publishers reported revenue growth ranging from 3% to 100%, and a majority told us that the campaign has inspired new ways of thinking about revenue.  


We are also very excited to see how publishers will use this money to produce high-quality public interest news for their audiences. Some examples:  

  • One outlet will mentor people from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds and people with disabilities to write stories on social issues and human rights.  

  • Another will commission freelancers to produce stories looking into housing issues in Greenwich, covering topics such as homelessness and regeneration.  

  • A third, who happens to be a sole trader and the only publisher in her area, will be able to print and distribute a whole year’s worth of issues.  


So, what did we learn?  


  • In order to raise money, you have to shamelessly ask for money. Repeatedly.  

  • No one fundraising avenue came out as the clear winner, but choosing one and focusing on it yielded good results. Some publishers ran extremely successful crowdfunders, while others gained a tranche of new recurring members.  

  • Match-funding is a huge incentive for people to donate.  

  • The more you engage with your community, the more likely they are to pay for your work. Publishers with the most successful fundraisers held multiple events and found creative ways to connect to their audiences.  

  • Events don’t have to be very elaborate to be successful connectors and fundraisers. For many publishers, it was as simple as setting up a market stand or using a public art gallery as an office and talking to visitors when they wandered in. 

  • Elaborate events, however, are a lot of fun.  

 

I could go on, but this post is long enough as it is.  


Indie News Week has been an incredibly enriching experience for us and, I hope, for the participants and their audiences. Many thanks are due to our campaign partners, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and Judi Kamien, for their invaluable support on community engagement and fundraising. 


Most importantly, we are so grateful to the publishers who took a leap of faith with us on Indie News Week, and for their patience as we figured out the different steps, forms, and vinyl banner deliveries in real time.  


Roll on Indie News Week, June 2025!  


Hani Barghouthi is Head of Advocacy at PINF.


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