With the Membership Puzzle Project we want to offer useful resources for journalism organization staff, freelancers, and consultants as they create new membership programs and/or revamp existing offerings. We’re especially eager to show examples that demonstrate meaningful two-way knowledge exchange between news sites and their members. We’re showcasing sites whose interactions with members benefit organizational sustainability and make for better journalism. These tools are works in progress, and we hope that you will provide additional examples and feedback throughout the course of our research. 


Membership Models in News Database

This database presents information on wide-ranging news organizations and the ways they engage their audience members. You’ll see that it includes sites big and small as well as high variance in the social contracts between organizations and members. In the notes column, you’ll find coverage and case studies about organizations’ membership programs, and we hope you’ll share pieces that others might benefit from, too. We present the database for easy browsing on the topics that most interest you, and it’s acknowledgedly incomplete. We hope you’ll suggest other organizations that are relevant to this data set.

We’ve noticed a few commonalities across these organizations in the ways they organize themselves, operate with their members, and in how members participate. Read this post for more information on how we’re thinking about this work-in-progress tool. We hope to continue to build on this database with your additions and feedback.

Membership in News Literature Library

Please find our compilation of academic and industry articles on historic and current interactions between journalists and the audiences they serve.

  • A full literature review looks at the social contract between news organizations and their readers, listeners, and viewers.
  • A shorter set of "must reads" focuses on news production, audience measurement, and audience engagement.

Please share your suggestions for additional literature through this form.

Membership in public radio database

This database presents information from a sample of 50 public radio stations’ sites across the United States and internationally. We reviewed each station’s website as a prospective member might to understand how stations define membership (and, in almost all cases, financially quantify it). You’ll notice differences in how stations attract and retain members as well as in the ways that individuals can contribute as station volunteers. Please see this post for a more detailed discussion of findings.

You’ll see stations ranging in size and scope and find moderate variations in their membership framing. We hope you’ll suggest other stations that are relevant to this data set.