Turning Your Audience Into Members: Tips, Tricks & Issues

The second meetup took place in Warsaw and coincided with the News Impact Academy, an effort of both the European Journalism Centre and Google News Initiative. Our primary goal for this meetup was to surface different tactics and stories to build business models based on audience engagement.

Journalism should never be for profit, and so good reporting will never consistently return on investment. One way to go is adverts and sponsored content; another one is going for grants. What can supplement the two or help you be truly independent is receiving regular support from your audience.

What do you need for this model to work out? How to prepare and sustain this model? And finally: how much work is it?

We have got four different specialists to tell us about their experiences and knowledge on the topic on November 5th in the Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw.

My favourite insight was to think about your crowdfunding campaigns as business models and remember that it will give you freedom but also cost resources and energy to pull it off. I once crowdfunded my own band’s album. I wonder what you think 🙂

An Overview


Emily Goligoski from the Membership Puzzle Project provided an overview of successful membership programs based on a series of meetings with journalists and editors from different media organisations:

    • Designing your project for membership is like developing a new product. Your future member — a human-being — should always be at the centre of a new product design.
    • Members are looking for creative ways to be involved; they want more than just being asked to pay
    • Let your members in, tell them what’s behind the curtain of your stories, who and how is involved in creating them
    • Be honest in communications, also when it comes to things you are not entirely comfortable with. Your community is willing to help you
  • Work always and only in the public interest

The Nitty Gritty

Sebastian Esser from Krautreporter explained what we need to turn a publication into a membership business based on the experience of his crowdfunding campaign:

      • Krautreporter is cooperatively owned by its readers. Sebastian is an advocate for the membership model which he believes is great for media, great for the audience, and great for democracy
      • If you have an audience that trusts you, you are ready to try out the membership model.
      • The three dimensions of a membership model are 3Ps: privileges (provide your members with exclusive content), passion (share your mission and tell people why you do what you are doing), participation (let them shape your medium)
      • A 3*5 rule can help you estimate what you can get out of the campaign: 5% people out of those who trust you, will pay 5 EUR per month if you ask them five times

Case Study

Dorota Groyecka from the Non/fiction magazine shared insights into their successful crowdfunding campaign:

      • If you can showcase and explain in detail the thing you want to get funded — in our case, it was Non/fiction’s almost ready first issue — do it!
      • Publicity helps a lot, get involved in the issues that matter right now and try to surf the trends wave.
      • Do not finish your campaign after reaching your goal (if your time is still running); people want to be a part of an even more significant success if that is what is possible.
      • Organising a campaign is hard work each day. Do not underestimate it.
      • Build a certain presence and start your social media much earlier than your campaign.
      • Predict the predictable and get ready for the possible scenarios

Membership Model and Investigative Journalism


Katherine Quarmby from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ)showed how engaging readers in investigative journalism could work on a local, national and global scale:

    • Investigative journalism can have a massive impact on reality and can cause a significant change because of the number of people involved.
    • Investigative journalism is teamwork — 5 people work in a central team of the bureau of investigative journalism, but the bureau cooperates with 800 people in over 100 towns and cities.
    • When the BIJ works on global issue cooperates with local journalists.
    • The BIJ focus on telling essential stories in public interest, and it supports positive change. 
    • The Bureau Local Project is now looking for ways of building a membership model between the journalists across the world. They are looking for a shared currency between cultures and economic realities that could make it equally easy for diverse groups of people to become members.

That is all for now. But we will be back.

Outriders Meetups are all about cultivating the open sharing culture among journalists. We want to talk about the most pressing issues of running modern media initiatives and telling good stories. Next meetup co-organised by the Inside Story is coming up on February 7th. This time we are going to Athens and will be hosted by the local Impact Hub.

In the meantime, we will be sending you our biweekly newsletter, which you can sign up for here.

You can also join our Facebook group to stay in touch!