Local News Revenue Conundrum: Digital Media Services & Membership Schemes

To diversify revenue streams media providers in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere are experimenting with a range of different way to secure income. Previously I mentioned a few popular way newspapers are doing this is through paywalls and digital subscriptions and events. In this post, we will discuss the use of digital media services and membership schemes.

Digital Media Services

Events, Zusman argues, build on “the core competencies of journalism companies” by applying them in different contexts. Good publishers, he suggests, have transferable skills:

Number one, you know how to create content. Number two, you know how to aggregate an audience of readers. And number three, you know how to sell that audience, in essence, to advertisers.

“Those are core competencies that any decent media company already has,” he says. “The question is, can you apply those competencies in other ways to help find ways to support and broaden your journalism?”

One clear way a number of publishers are doing this is by leveraging their experience as news and information providers to support paying clients seeking digital marketing solutions.

The Eugene Register-Guard (Oregon) is one news provider doing just this, through its spin-o RG Media Company.

The company’s website and Twitter bio clearly outline how they seek to harness their primary expertise in delivering the Register-Guard across print, online, and mobile apps to o er services such as print and digital advertising design, website design/development, search engine marketing, video production, and content marketing. The Register-Guard also publishes the daily print edition of the Gannett-owned paper Salem Statesman Journal.

Other newspaper outlets pursuing similar strategies include much bigger publications, such as the Dallas Morning News (average Monday through Friday print and digital replica circulation: 264,908,) and e orts led by larger media groups, such as Hearst’s o shoot LocalEdge.

Membership Schemes

For some local media operators, such as NPR stations and their a liates, memberships are a revenue model they’re already very familiar with.

According to the OPB website, for example, “approximately 64% of the funds we raise comes from individual membership contributions from viewers and listeners.”  OPB provides content for Oregonians on TV and radio and via its website, apps, and podcasts.

“I think one of the main ingredients of our secret sauce, if you will, is pledge drives,” indicates OPB’s senior vice president and chief content o cer, Morgan Holm.

He continues:

It forces you to articulate on a regular basis to your audience what you do
for them and why it’s of value to them. And you know pretty quickly whether that’s working or not, because if people don’t call and make a commitment to you, you’re either not doing the work that you say you’re doing or they’re not getting the point of what you say.

In Eugene, Oregon, KLCC—a charter member of National Public Radio and the primary NPR member station in the Eugene/Spring eld area—lists a number of ways audiences can contribute to their nancial well-being, including sustaining membership (monthly ongoing donations), stock transfers, business underwriting, and vehicle donation.

The station, which reaches over 80,000 listeners each week within a 100-mile radius of Eugene, celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2017. The milestone coincides with a temporary cut in funding that the station has asked listeners to help meet.

Elements of this membership-driven approach are being adopted more widely across the local journalism ecosystem as part of a continued effort to find new ways to fund local reporting.

The News Revenue Hub, which launched in late 2016, is working with a number of local and national news organizations to “set up comprehensive membership and crowdfunding programs so they can achieve greater sustainability.”

Hub participants include state-focused outlets such as Honolulu Civil Beat, NJ Spotlight, CalMatters, and the Rivard Report, an independent outlet that focuses on San Antonio, Texas.

For those organizations, OPB’s Holm o ers some advice:

When it lines up and you’re doing the work, and you’re articulating to the audience that you’re doing the work, and you’re signaling to them [the audience] this is how you recognize the value of this, and you make that a relatively easy transaction, then you start to build a viable membership model.

One response to “Local News Revenue Conundrum: Digital Media Services & Membership Schemes

  1. Pingback: Local News Revenue Conundrum: Digital Media Services & Membership Schemes | Consider This·

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