Project Oasis is a collaboration between UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media, LION Publishers, Douglas K. Smith and the Google News Initiative to map the progress and choices of locally focused digital news publishers, and share the most relevant insights with you. See below for FAQs about the project and the criteria used in the research.

Through our research, we have created a variety of resources for news entrepreneurs and those curious about the rise of digitally native news organizations:

This database that maps the current landscape of digital native local news publishers in the U.S. and Canada.

An interactive Playbook that provides a framework for how to get started and the choices that successful publishers have made on their pathway to sustainability, based on in-depth interviews with local news site founders at key stages of growth. 

A Starter Pack of ready-to-use templates and resources to assist aspiring digital news entrepreneurs in starting up.

This initiative is a complement to UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media’s News Deserts Project, led by UNC Knight Professor of Journalism and Digital Media Economics Penny Abernathy, which highlighted the rise of rural and urban communities where residents have limited access to the credible and comprehensive news and information that feeds democracy at the grassroots level. 



  1. How did you determine who to include in the database?

The goal of Project Oasis is to showcase the growing digital, local, independent media landscape. We focused on publications who meet the following criteria:

(1) site is devoted primarily to original, local news and information (a majority of coverage is through local, originally produced news);

(2) site is located in the United States or Canada;

(3) publisher is digital-native and/or dominant;

(4) site is editorially independent (this means you are privately owned and not primarily or majority owned by a publicly traded company, newspaper chain, hedge fund or private equity firm and/or political or religious institution. This can include public media if the public media is merged with an independent publication and the two are independently run and funded.); and

(5) owners are attempting to develop revenue streams from their content.


  1. How did you compile this database?

We surfaced over 700 organizations that meet the criteria above through searches of existing databases (from our partners at LION, as well as the Institute for Nonprofit News and our colleagues at Ryerson University in Toronto) and additional research. A survey was sent to eligible organizations, and representatives from those organizations submitted their information for inclusion in the database. For organizations that did not respond to the survey request, researchers at UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media compiled basic profiles for those organizations out of publicly available information.


  1. How can I request an addition to the database? 

If you represent an organization, or are aware of an organization that fits the above criteria but is not currently included in the database, you can always fill out this form to request to be included. A researcher will review your entry and reach out with any questions. You can use this form to request a change to an existing entry.


  1. How often is the database updated?

All of the information in the database at launch was collected between April and July 2020. Organizations that are featured in the database can always submit updated information via this form.


  1. How can I learn more about the project?

You can learn more about the project from the following sources

You are also welcome to reach out via the contact form


  1. Please tell me more about the partners.

UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media: At UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media’s Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media (UNC CISLM), our mission is to help local news organizations retool for the digital age. 

LION Publishers: A journalism association supporting independent local online news publishers. Our mission is to help existing and aspiring local news entrepreneurs build and grow financially sustainable small businesses. LION members are creating the future of local news with independently owned and operated businesses that directly serve their communities.

Douglas K. Smith: Douglas K Smith is the driving force behind Table Stakes, the Media Transformation Challenge, and a small library of performance and management books.

Google News Initiative: The Google News Initiative represents Google's largest-ever effort to help journalism thrive in the digital age. Through its partnerships, programs and products, the Google News Initiative works with thousands of organizations worldwide to support quality independent journalism, financial sustainability, and development of new technologies that drive innovation. Google is investing $300 million over three years to energize these collaborations, and to lay the foundation for new products and programs for a diverse set of news publishers, to benefit the entire ecosystem. This includes supporting thought leadership on topics like consumer revenue, advertising and data that are critical to the future of the news industry. For more information, visit