News Membership as a Community Model

Local newsrooms are tasked with representing their local communities and the issues and topics that matter to them. For that reason, it seems especially important for there to be reader advisory boards and feedback loops in place to ensure that the local community can share feedback with the newsroom. But if your newsroom or publication is in a pre-community state, Rebecca Quarl has suggestions on scalable measures that you can take to let your audience know that you value their readership.

Rebecca has the unique vantage of having worked across 28 for and non-profit news organizations with the News Revenue Hub, originally starting her career as a journalist. Her firsthand experience with news membership as a community model raises an interesting approach for scaling community tactics across the newsroom.

Patrick and Rebecca also discuss:

  • Why Rebecca left the agency world to rejoin newsrooms
  • The readership survey that Rebecca conducted with those 28 news organizations
  • Membership as a shared responsibility across the newsroom

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Big Quotes

On making time to connect with your readers: “For our clients who are spread pretty thin, if they don’t have time to manage an online community or don’t have time to really harness crowdsourcing, I tell them that’s okay. Let’s instead do an audit of your e-mail products and figure out how to drive that daily habit and essentialness and make it something that people are opening and clicking regularly. Instead of using that time to moderate an online community, let’s make sure that at the end of each day you’re checking all of the responses that you got from e-mail subscribers and responding to each one.” –@rebeccarives

On the importance of buy-in for membership: “Where we’re seeing membership programs really take off is [in] the newsrooms that see membership as a shared responsibility. [In] the newsroom [that] has decided together that membership, more than page views or unique visitors or the latest newfangled metric from Google or Facebook, becomes the highest indicator of success and so there’s a collective buy-in on this notion that membership is the highest sign of engagement for our newsroom, that’s when the magic happens.” –@rebeccarives

On membership as a community model: “Membership, first and foremost, is a newsroom saying that we believe the healthiest business model for the news is one in which readers help sustain it, and that sustainment is not about exclusivity. They’re not donating because they are going to get something that other readers cannot. It’s about creating a sense of belonging, again, in this sort of membership community and feeling like you’re putting your hard earned dollar between something that is holding the powerful to account.” –@rebeccarives

About Rebecca Quarls

Rebecca Quarls is the director of client relationships for the News Revenue Hub, working with 28 for and non-profit news organizations around the country to preserve the sustainability of public service journalism. Specifically, the Hub is focused on helping client organizations grow their email subscriber list, loyalty and engagement within that list and then conversion to membership. At the Hub, membership—not unique visitors, not page views, is the highest measure of success and the ultimate sign of an engaged reader community. Rebecca was previously the membership manager for the Texas Tribune.

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