Reader Revenue
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Ukrayinska Pravda builds travel, payments industry solutions into unique membership model

The “Toloka” or “communal” membership level is the third subscriber product launch this year for Ukrayinska Pravda, one of Ukraine’s leading publishers

Ukraine’s legacy media heavyweight Ukrayinska Pravda announced a novel membership model with integrated partner benefits – a solution often used by travel and payment industry players.

Called UP “Toloka” (which refers to communal or neighbourly labour), the new model’s value proposition provides exclusive discounts and gifts from Ukrainian and international companies to members.

Currently, UP Toloka has around 30 business partners, book publishers, digital service providers and restaurants. It features such companies as Uber, Hub 4.0 (a co-working space) and Intertop (a clothing retailer), who all provide readers paying 125 UAH monthly (roughly $5) with unique offers. 

The idea is to build a mutually beneficial partnership between independent media, readers and businesses, says Sevgil Musaeva, Chief Editor of Ukrayinska Pravda. She claims this model is unique not just in Ukraine but internationally as well. 

A Nieman Fellow and Harvard alumni, Musaeva spent a lot of time studying global membership models – most notably that of The Guardian – before launching them at her own publication.

At an event devoted to UP Toloka launch, Musaeva said Ukrayinska Pravda’s five-year goal would be to receive around a third of its revenue from its membership.

The launch of UP Toloka marks the third subscriber product to be launched by the digital publication, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in April this year. Since the quarantine hit Ukrayinska Pravda has launched a classic membership model, as well as an invitation-only editor’s club.

This is part of the broad trend in Ukraine, where media hard hit by the corona-crisis jumped to launch reader revenue models after years of holding back. While crowdfunding campaigns were a familiar (and tired) tactic, asking people for regular subscriptions was all but unthinkable. 

Fast forward to today and the country has pretty much embraced the growing global consensus that reader revenue is among the most promising sources of income for media. Yet a growing number of voices are asking if just fining tuning the existing models is enough, and where to find additional sources of innovation.

According to Ukrayinska Pravda, part of the inspiration behind their new membership came from travel and payment industry players, like Amex, Revolut or British Airways, who have partner programs with additional benefits to provide a unique and more compelling offer for users.

This piece was originally published in The Fix and is re-published with kind permission. The Fix is a solutions-oriented publication focusing on the European media scene. Subscribe to its bi-monthly newsletter here.

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