API Summit: Sustainability Through Listening

On April 30, 2020, API hosted “Sustainability Through Listening: Reader Revenue in the Wake of COVID-19,” a virtual Thought Leader Summit that convened stakeholders to discuss how news organizations can build deeper relationships with their audiences through listening — and in doing so, lay a foundation for more direct support from audiences in the form of subscriptions, memberships and donations. Held against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, when most news organizations have experienced a surge in traffic and subscriptions from audiences eager for information, the discussions took on a greater sense of urgency as news outlets are looking to keep those new audiences engaged and maintain the “COVID bump.”

The summit brought together journalists, editors and managers from a range of news outlets, as well as experts at the intersection of community engagement, audience development, business and technology. Given the stay-at-home and social distancing measures imposed by the pandemic, the 2-hour summit was hosted via the teleconferencing platform Zoom, instead of over the course of a day in a physical location, which is the norm for API’s Thought Leader Summits.

API hosted a “part two” virtual discussion on June 3, which took a deeper dive into topics that garnered the most interest from attendees. We will share written resources that are based on insights from both discussions here.

Participating organizations include, among others:

6AM City

America Amplified

Arizona Daily Star

Bangor Daily News

Block Club Chicago

Borealis Philanthropy

Carolina Public Press

Chicago Reader

City Bureau

Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism


Democracy Fund

Democrat and Chronicle/Gannett



Graham Media Group




Houston Chronicle

Houston Defender Network

Inasmuch Foundation

Independence Public Media Foundation



Lenfest Institute for Journalism

Markkula Center for Applied Ethics


Membership Puzzle Project


News Media Alliance

News Revenue Hub

North Carolina Local News Lab Fund

Northwestern University





Rivard Report

Robert R. McCormick Foundation

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

San Francisco Chronicle

Santa Cruz Local


Seattle Times

Solutions Journalism Network

Southern California News Group


Temple University

Texas Tribune Revenue Lab

The American Journalism Project

The Compass Experiment

The Day

The Devil Strip

The GroundTruth Project

The Mendocino Voice

The Other Wave

The Philadelphia Inquirer

The Pilot

San Francisco Chronicle

Thomas Jefferson University

Trusting News





Wyncote Foundation


The “Sustainability Through Listening: Reader Revenue in the Wake of COVID-19” virtual summit is supported by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation. It builds on previous work API has done to help cultivate community listening in newsrooms, and promote news organizations’ long-term sustainability through reader revenue. The virtual summit was led by Cole Goins, a community engagement consultant and engagement lead at Journalism + Design, and author of the API report “How a culture of listening strengthens reporting and relationships.”

For more information about this or API’s other Thought Leader Summits, contact Kevin Loker, API’s director of program operations and partnerships, at kevin.loker@pressinstitute.org.