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.