Vandana Kumar speaks at INN Days panel

India Currents’ publisher Vandana Kumar has been making waves in the world of nonprofit news, putting the India Currents story front and center in an industry where the ground rules are constantly evolving. Last week she was invited to present at a panel at the Institute for Non-Profit News (INN) annual conference. This comes on the heels of her nomination to the board as a Director of the California News Publisher’s Association (CNPA).

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Vandana Kumar of India Currents with Marcia Parker of the New York Times (image courtesy: Vandana Kumar)

The Institute for Non-Profit News (INN), of which India Currents is a member, held its annual INN Days conference (June 8-9) in Washington D.C. The conference is the leading event for news leaders, journalism supporters, and civic innovators shaping the future of journalism in North America. The June 2023 event offered thought-provoking, action-oriented sessions on this year’s theme, Where nonprofit news meets civic impact.

The event was designed to explore how nonprofit news organizations are expanding services, refining funding models, and working collectively to create a greater impact. In addition, INN announced a grant opportunity for members, while news leaders, journalism supporters, and civic innovators shared unique ways of circulating news.

Rebuilding Local News

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Vandana Kumar with Sara Shahriari (INN) and Amy Kovac-Ashley (Lenfest) at the INN Conference in Washington DC (image courtesy: Vandana Kumar)

It’s no secret that local news is declining reported INN, as dwindling revenue, layoffs, social media, apps, and alternative media platforms redefine how news is delivered and audiences consume news.

More than 400 newsrooms in the INN Network emerged from the global pandemic and a tumultuous election cycle with practices and visions to address ground-shifting changes within the world and communities they serve. The INN panels and plenaries focused on emerging models that are reconfiguring how to deliver news in the digital media ecosystem.

Maximizing impact with Newspack

Kumar, who led the India Currents transition from print to digital through the vagaries of the pandemic, was well-positioned to address the challenges that community-based publications face today.

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Vandana Kumar with panelists Kim Bode (Newspack / Automattic), Irene McKisson (Arizona Luminaria), and Norberto Santana (Voice of OC) in a session entitled “Maximizing Revenue to Maximize Impact with Newspack.” (image courtesy: Vandana Kumar)

India Currents sustainability model

Kumar spoke on a panel about India Currents’ vision for the future, providing valuable insights about building a more robust funding ecosystem for a sustainable business using Newspack.

Kumar joined panelists Kim Bode (Newspack / Automattic), Irene McKisson (Arizona Luminaria), and Norberto Santana (Voice of OC) in a session entitled “Maximizing Revenue to Maximize Impact with Newspack.”

Kumar addressed the enormous challenges that nonprofit publishers face in building a reader revenue model to create a solid financial base. She shared India Currents’ experience with using Newspack to convert readers into loyal visitors and supporters by leveraging the platform’s email, membership, and donation tools.

“This was an opportunity to meet really inspiring folks,” said Kumar. “I heard about the effectiveness of using Whatsapp. I met other South Asians in this space. I learned so much.”

Vanadan Kumar speaking at INN’s panel on “Maximizing Revenue to Maximize Impact with Newspack.”

Highlights of the INN Days Event

Through a partnership between GNI and INN, members of the INN Network are now eligible for up to $20,000 in grants. The announcement by Tiffany Proscia of Google News Initiative (GNI) added that news organizations will be able to participate in a three-month GNI Fundamentals Lab focused on audience development and revenue growth and receive funding to implement their plans.

Leaders from local media revealed their secrets to reaching audiences with information and news. Whatsapp, popular in South Asian communities, was also the platform of choice for news outlets Documented, Conecta Arizona, and Enlace Latino NC, to reach Spanish-speaking communities.

Data gathered from INN’s latest Index survey recorded a spike in the number of nonprofit news outlets over the years. The newsrooms MLK50: Justice Through Journalism and Resolve Philly offered guidance on how to build trust with communities, not extract information from them.

A Little Puppy Love

But it was not all work and no play. Attendees also had an opportunity to relax and play with puppies during a break.