The last twelve months have been the year of the digital subscription. In response to continuing ad revenue losses and social media platform upheaval, more newsrooms have turned toward reader revenue, and those who have long had digital subscription offerings made them increasingly central to their strategies.
But as newsrooms continue to diversify their revenue, how can they expand the possibilities of audience revenue beyond paywalls? As business models rely more and more on audiences directly, how can newsrooms foster a culture of listening to their users as customers who have needs to be met?
As API’s 2018 summer fellow, I’ll be working on a two-part resource focused on helping news organizations identify reader revenue opportunities.
The first piece will be a guide detailing how newsrooms can leverage their unique journalism and audience relationships to build reader revenue beyond subscriptions. Some of the questions I’ll be pondering include:
- When does an events business make sense for a news organization?
- When is membership a viable path for an organization and its core audience?
- How can newsrooms create more value from their reporters’ work? Should they start a speakers bureau, education initiatives, or book publishing?
I’ll be focusing on the processes that organizations have used to evaluate and implement audience-focused revenue streams that complement subscriptions. I hope to make it actionable and geared towards small local newsrooms in particular, with guidelines and case studies highlighting success stories.
To complement this guide, I’ll be building a user research toolkit to help newsrooms listen to their current and potential users as they develop and iterate their products and services. As a researcher for the Membership Puzzle Project, I’ve seen first-hand how user research is generally an underutilized tool in newsrooms, especially when it comes to developing reader revenue initiatives.
News organizations have a lot to gain from understanding how user research and qualitative data (like in-depth user interviews and feedback) can complement widely used quantitative metrics (like pageviews and conversion rates). User research can strengthen newsroom-audience relationships and revenue streams by making them truly user-centric. I’ll also be addressing how user research doesn’t need to be resource-intensive, and how newsrooms are naturally equipped to do user research. (Can you think of anyone more up to the task of asking the right questions from their users than journalists?)
I’m excited to apply my skills and experience to API this summer for this project. In addition to my work for the Membership Puzzle Project over the last year as a grad student in Studio 20 (NYU’s digital journalism and innovation program), I graduated in 2017 from The New School, where I majored in strategic design and management and minored in Journalism + Design. I’ve been immersed in human-centered design and design thinking, journalism innovation and entrepreneurship and the ongoing industry shift toward audience revenue. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to work on this project during such a crucial and exciting moment for the news industry.
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If you’re interested in API’s summer fellowship for 2019, you can learn more about the program here and sign up to be notified when applications open.
Gonzalo del Peon is a graduate student in NYU’s Studio 20 program focused on digital journalism innovation. He is a researcher for the Membership Puzzle Project and is interested in mission-aligned business models for news and in human-centered design. Originally from Mexico City and Philadelphia, Pa., he graduated from The New School in 2017 with a BBA in strategic design and management and a minor in journalism + design. He has also worked in audience engagement and development for the New School Free Press and Heleo Media, and has reported for Fast Company, WNYC, and Al Día News.