This article charts a scholarly framework for understanding media innovation in Australia’s non-metropolitan news environments. We adopt a geo-social methodology to explore strategies for the betterment of small country newspapers and the societies they serve in the digital era. In doing so, we do not discount the importance of digitization, but contend that a narrow ‘digital first’ focus is eclipsing other important aspects of local news and generating blind spots around existing and evolving power relationships that might impede or foster innovation. We advocate for a six-dimensional approach to shaping innovation for rural news organizations – one that is relational because it foregrounds the connections between digital, social, cultural, political, economic and environmental concerns. Here, the central question is not how country newsrooms can innovate in the interests of their own viability but rather how they can build resilience and relevance in the interests of the populations and environments that sustain them.