The journey from Reader Relationships to Reader Revenues

Why are we talking about reader revenues — and what you need to know

The limitations of indirect funding models via advertising and transaction based funding models for journalism are shifting focus to extend audience engagement and trust with an associated commitment of financial support. In 2013 — local news paywalls were a total disaster so what has changed in six years? Reader revenues is a catch-all for the diversified strategies open to publishers wanting to convert reader relationships into revenues. There are a diversified range of reader revenues. These include: micropayments, paywalls, subscriptions, donation models, action investments, membership models, crowdfunded investments and cooperative ownership. They range in intensity from passive to engaged relations and from transactional to invested revenues.

Profile of a likely subscriber, designed by Media Innovation Studio, from Lichterman’s benchmarks
  • Reader revenues rely on creating unique value so you stand out as differentiated.
  • Understanding participation activities that are both of interest to members and valuable to the publication is key. How does your audience want to participate now and in the future?
  • How do you communicate the larger cause that the news organization represents and how do you stand out beyond the commodity?
  • Those that are successful in motivating members often produce journalism reflective of their mission.
  • Conversion strategies, audience funnels and stop rates all need to be fully understood to be successful in reader revenues. Research entails deeply understanding your audience’s needs, preferences, and daily habits.
  • Email newsletters are one of the best digital ways to build a loyal and engaged audience whom you can turn to for support.
  • Becoming an audience-driven — and especially member-driven — newsroom requires a huge culture change for reporters and editors that demands significant leadership.
A matrix from passive relations with transactional revneues to engaged realtionships and invested commitments

Participation takes many forms in the more muscular models for membership. Not one way to contribute, but many entry points. (Jay Rosen)

Action investments may include non-monetary support as well as transactions, perhaps around investigations as with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. At the point of reading a big investigation is the point many people want to subscribe and Bureau Local has mobilsed huge communities to help in their reporting hoping for a correlation between trust and subscription. The Bureau Local’s new business model translates this action investment into three strategic arms: Bureau local bridgemaker (deep civic projects), bureau exchange (sharing process knowledge such as with Correctiv germany) and bureau learn (with universities and schools).

Niche revenue models for independent media. Business. Resilience. Diversification. Innovation. @cecook www.mediainnovationstudio.org www.clarecookonline.com

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