We went around the world to identify memberful routines that incorporate community members’ knowledge and produce value for news organizations. Here are practical tips from 19 news sites that show how to involve your supporters in your own site’s work.
Even with a limited marketing budget, paid acquisition is a low-risk, reliable return investment for publishers and funders looking to more quickly earn audience growth and financial sustainability.
It’s time to move beyond collaboration, contribution, and participation if we are to truly redistribute power. Community contributor models were a good start, but now journalists need to undertake more power-sharing and equitable allocation of resources.
Journalism’s traditional financial models are dying. Could churches, environmental movements, and open source communities hold clues to its survival?
Members often contribute to organizations in ways that are not easily quantifiable, and most participatory contributions are often hard to distill into a single line item. Is it possible to measure the value of participation and, more importantly, is it something we should even be measuring in the first place?
If you don't have processes for ongoing, visible, and participatory ways to involve members from the start, you are setting the stage for their disappointment. News entrepreneurs from around the world share how they make space for their members to vote, test, and weigh in regularly.
For those eager to shift the news paradigm, Join the Beat collaborations with community members show how networked reporting opens up a “really big group of sources,” as De Correspondent migration reporter Maite Vermeulen said. Read more about starting engagement well before publishing and promotion with audience-oriented discovery and research.
The Correspondent put forward a model for more inclusive journalism by putting people at the center and consistently communicating. Read how the project’s success in crowdfunding $2.6MM reflects three years of diligent planning and purposefulness. It also reflects cohesive design elements; Dutch “proof”; and a clear value proposition.
The people formerly known as the audience tell us they’re motivated to learn, contribute expertise, be heard, be granted transparency, express support for a cause, and meet people with shared values. You can learn from news organizations around the world about how they responsibly, enthusiastically allow community members past the gatekeeper and make coverage that saves and generates money.
The focus of newsroom business model innovation has largely shifted from advertisers to audience members. Heather Bryant looks at what it will take for newsrooms to create pathways to membership for low and no income audiences: people who have been historically excluded from mutually beneficial relationships with newsrooms.
“Low-income people do spend money. If they're not spending money on your product, that is about your product. It's not about them,” said Sarah Alvarez of Outlier Media. Read on about why we need stronger collaborations between news organizations and community members to redefine what is and isn’t considered “newsworthy,” learn what makes for exploitive or respectful depictions, and do damage control.
We’re launching a global fund to help identify and share best practices for supporting and sustaining independent journalism in the 21st century. If you and your members have insights to uncover about participation path design, inclusion and equity, organizational listening, membership tools and tech, and related themes, we hope you’ll indicate your interest.
Media organisations the world over consider engagement a central tenet of their work — but what that looks like varies widely. We examine the continuum of practices aiming to promote deeply participatory levels of engagement, and the challenges of inviting members into collaborative decision-making and co-production.
When the National Geographic Society was founded in 1888 as an exclusive, member-nominated community of scientific scholars, it had practically every element of what today’s news organizations and supporters are seeking in their own membership initiatives. But the Society lost its grip on membership, seeing a sustained decline that offers lessons about the difficult challenges of transitioning from a niche to a generalist audience in a rapidly transitioning digital landscape.
We’re looking for a full-time operations manager who can join our team in New York City. If you’re detail-oriented and fascinated by news engagement and revenue models, we hope to hear from you.
In this project’s first year we hosted two groups, one for audience development staff and one for beat reporters, who want to work more closely with their sites’ audience members. Here we share what we’ve learned about how in demand these staffers and their skills are, why “impact” (like “community”) needs to be more clearly defined, and more that you can use with your own communities of practice.
As Spotify and other streaming services “consumerize” subscription models for media, cash-strapped news organizations are thinking of “Spotify for news” as a logical progression in the shift to reader revenue. Yet, this makes the faulty assumption that two identical business models — Spotify and many digital magazines charge $10 a month — deliver the same value to the end user. The reality is not so clear-cut.
Polls show that people trust journalists less than other professionals. But what do we really mean when we talk about “public trust” in news media? It will benefit us to highlight three ingredients: the accessibility of our sites and journalists; our journalists’ relatability (the “just like us” factor); and a sense of professional “selflessness” among journalists to protect the public interest over other interests.
Supporters of independent news tell us that sites worth their time, ideas, expertise, and money exemplify a consistent set of design principles. Hear about how inclusivity, humanity, humility, and other characteristics make some sites stand out in ways that encourage inexhaustible participation.
Involving audience members in the production and scrutiny of journalism blows up traditional access to information -- in a good way. We’ve found it enhances civic engagement and could also be a component for ensuring news organisations’ sustainability.
When OpenFile said it wanted to give readers more editorial control, the media community called it revolutionary. When the project closed two years later, they called it a failure. Somewhere in the middle is a valuable lesson about what it takes to put readers at the center of a news site.
“Membership” is a hot topic at journalism discussions and conferences around the world, yet membership in news is not a new idea. We look at how public broadcasters – some of the most experienced membership practitioners in journalism – are adapting as listener behaviors and needs change.
We compiled data on the ways that a sample of 50 public radio stations present membership on their sites. We found that most audience asks are financial first, though a few stations are beginning to host more participatory ways that community members can contribute to journalists’ reporting.
We’re looking for a few beat reporters with some tolerance for failure to join our experiment in “networked reporting.” In this concept paper we explain what we mean by that. You’ll be part of a learning community with other reporters feeling their way to a membership strategy for beat coverage. Curious? Read on...
Membership programs, like journalism business models today, come in many shapes and sizes. In the first of two posts exploring the continuum of membership relative to news organizations’ revenue, we look at sites where membership makes up less than half of revenue but is still an important organizational and community endeavor.
What sets apart organizations that depend on (or aim to rely on) members for most of their revenue? In continuing to explore the variety of forms that robust membership takes in the news industry, we examine such sites. Teaser: organizational culture is a major differentiator.
We published a new “Guide to Audience Revenue and Engagement” with the Tow Center for Digital Journalism. It’s an extended argument for why the future of news will be supported by direct audience revenue cultivated by high levels of engagement -- and how publications can get there. You, too, can contribute.
“There are no get-sustainable-quick schemes,” News Revenue Hub’s CTO Tristan Loper said recently. And no news subsidy system is perfect. Here we share some membership limitations and cautionary tales.
Leaders within membership in news want more solidarity, success stories, and tactical ideas around a few core themes. We’re creating a professional community of publishers who will learn alongside one another over the next year.
Scholars have given careful thought to the relationship between journalists and the people on the receiving end of their work: the audience, the public. Here, we review what this literature might teach us now, especially as journalist + audience interactions evolve.
Our research approach for more audience-engaged design: 1. Listen to members around the world. 2. Map their needs. 3. Turn those needs into practical questions for news sites. 4. See and share what comes out of sites’ own brainstorms. Question, encourage, celebrate.
We interviewed supporters of news sites around the world to learn what they need and want from the organizations they contribute their money, time, and expertise to. We heard that they pay more for unique news value than utility or perks. Supporters also said that they must have more spaces for quality interactions and non-traditional ways to participate.
“We can do better as an industry,” we wrote this summer. Four sites are doing just that in designing membership programs that are far from typical or transactional. Learn what they have to share about their process, progress, and travails—and why new programs must incorporate member voices.
Creating new membership relationships can feel like being in “a band that has to create a fan base without a record label,” as WTF Just Happened Today founder Matt Kiser said. Hear from him and staff at another independent site, Honolulu Civil Beat, about launching their programs.
We’ve just released our Membership Models in News Database with details about the wide range of member-supported journalism sites. Here we dig into that data and show followers of and contributors to our research what makes for a strong, flexible, and participatory membership program.
We’ve spent three months researching news sites that have membership programs. Today we’re releasing a database that collects what we found. Here we describe some of the key characteristics of the more robust models for member-supported journalism.
In studying seven domains from co-working spaces to gaming communities, we’ve seen how organizations are being creative in designing membership. We share how they’re bringing immersive tryouts, personalized contracts, and flexibility to current and potential members.
We’re looking forward to a future with membership programs that audiences co-design with publishers, rich member participation opportunities to benefit journalism, and a clearer shared vocabulary. Today that starts with clear thinking regarding how we talk about and to potential members as inspired by Latino Rebels, The Intercept, and other sites.
European news startups share what their audiences have told them about the breakdown in believability – and how they’re counteracting it with small team investigations and member involvement in their storytelling.
Members made a moral decision: this is something I should support. They placed a high value on transparency and the kind of in-depth journalism that shows them how things got this way—and how they could be different.
In conversations with publishers, we’re hearing that membership is an imperative part of their growth strategy but one that is fraught with resource constraints and audience limitations on capacity to care.
Digging into the details of robust membership programs requires a clearly-defined purpose and methods. We took our cue from human-centered design principles, which keep people at the heart of the process.
The reasons many journalists haven’t invested time in interacting with audiences are deep-seated and financial. How can we develop a more nuanced understanding of the potential value of audience engagement?
Remember back in March, when De Correspondent and New York University set up a year-long collaboration to learn about membership models in news? Today we take a big step by naming a skilled and experienced research professional to work on the Membership Puzzle Project.
I contacted a number of Dutch members of De Correspondent to learn more about why they share their knowledge with the writers, why they became members in the first place and what they think makes DC different. Here is what they told me.
NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen explains why he's teaming up with De Correspondent on its U.S. launch— and why figuring out a membership model grounded in trust is one key to journalism's future.
Johannes Visser is part-time teacher, part-time Education Correspondent. He regularly uses student input (ages 15-18) in his journalism, including in his podcast Listen up!, which he puts together every other week with some of his students.
Many traditionally educated journalists think of interacting with their readers as a lot of extra work. The first instruction we give them when they start working for De Correspondent is simple: “This is your work.” We tell them that around 50% of their working time should be spent on these conversations.
If the last decade has proven anything, it's that our financial system is broken. But our Progress Correspondent Rutger Bregman wasn’t satisfied with pointing fingers at Wall Street. He decided to take matters into his own hands.