Audience Engagement Digital Publishing Reader Revenue
2 mins read

How can local independent news orgs build successful membership programs?

When you have 50 different local news organizations from across the country in one room, you also have 50 different news markets. But everyone wants to create journalism that is meaningful — and funded.

Gwen Vargo of the American Press Institute, Christina Shih of the News Revenue Hub, Emily Goligoski of the Membership Puzzle Project, Matt Skibinski of the Lenfest Institute, and more shared their lessons learned at last Friday’s Reader Revenue Summit in New Jersey – you can watch the entire video stream of the event here.

Here are some ‘at a glance’ takeaways:

  • It takes 20 exposures to a subscription offer before someone typically converts to being a subscriber, according to paywall tech company Piano’s Michael Silberman. He also encouraged the organizations present to focus on annual subscriptions because of the instability of monthly subscriber churn.
  • Christina Shih, who helped build the membership program at the Voice of San Diego and is now COO of the News Revenue Hub, which helps other orgs develop their own, talked about the importance of email when communicating with potential payers. “People see the donate button, but they don’t click on the button,” she said. “You have to tell them, ‘if you value us, please donate to us.’” And she emphasized that email relationships are about quality, not quantity.
  •  “Don’t substitute the word ‘interest’ for ‘value’,” said Vargo. “People might be interested in a car crash, but don’t value it enough to pay for it.” She also referenced research on paths to subscription, the types and motives of news subscribers, and the price points of digital subscriptions for U.S. newspapers.
  • 45% of subscribers are triggered to subscription by a discount or trial offer
  • Too many readers of local news sites that have been around for a while still can’t name the authors behind them. This is why V:RC does monthly meet-ups – to combat that, demystify the faceless bylines.

Read more…

Further reading:

WNIP: When should a publisher adopt a membership model?

DigidayThe Washington Post offers exclusive benefits in push to retain subscribers