“Sell more than a product or a cause”: How memberships can help publishers build a sustainable future

What's New in Publishing 23 Sep 2020 09:04

Membership requires a “mindset shift,” suggests the Membership Puzzle Project’s newly published, The Membership Guide. “Instead of just assuming what members want, successful membership organizations have developed ways of listening, fresh thinking about what their members actually want, and strong feedback loops to get it right.” The guide lays how news publishers can do the same. 

The most important lesson throughout the years to build a membership-focused newsroom is: don’t consider members as an afterthought, but include them in your daily thinking.

Maaike Goslinga, Managing Editor, and Gwen Martèl, Conversation Editor, De Correspondent

The guide has been produced in partnership with the Lenfest Institute and Google News Initiative, and authored by Ariel Zirulnick (Managing Editor of the Membership Guide), with Emily Goligoski (Senior Director of Audience Research at The Atlantic) and Jay Rosen (Co-Founder and Director of the MPP). It took three nearly years to complete, during which the researchers consulted 50+ publishers and over 200 newsroom supporters.

“What hooks potential members”

The following matrix can be useful in selecting the elements of the program. A value survey would help decide whether a benefit belongs in the high value or low-value quadrant. And effort can be correlated to the cost and staff time spent on implementing the benefit.  

A membership program is a work-in-progress and publishers need to keep tabs on the performance and cost of the program and adjust the offerings when required. “Some of your benefits might take off, while others are rarely used,” the authors write. “As your membership program grows, some of the more intimate benefits, such as the opportunity to attend editorial meetings, may not feasibly scale, and new opportunities to improve the member experience might arise.”

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De CorrespondentMaaike GoslingaGwen MartlLenfest InstituteAriel Zirulnick
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