How can we fund media through engagement?

Who was there?
Meghann Farnsworth, host
Bruce Powell
Bill Densmore
Cylvia Hayes
Tracy Loeffelholz Dunn
Jo Ellen Gree Kaiser
Talia Stroud
Tood Milbourn
Dan Archer
Nathan Stevens
Susan Gleason
Rachel Damgen
Tom Stites

Some takeaways and themes:
What are we selling or monetizing?
It’s not just or always stories. In fact, maybe it shouldn’t be stories at all.
It’s also not the usual model: eyeballs delivered to advertisers
Other things media organizations provide that are sellable:
point of view
curation of the broader information ecosystem
insight
knowledge (taking info and making into knowledge by adding your expertise)
personalize to individual users (something legacy media hasn’t been able to do)
inspiration
opportunity for engagement (comments, discussion, etc.): being heard and also participating
social capital
have a question or something to add to an article
newsroom — being able to come into the space? third space services (you live at home, you work at work but your intellectual, social, community, emotional fulfillment occurs in a third space [a bar, starbucks, what we’re doing here is a third space for us]
should media buy spaces (coffee shops, bars, restaurants, etc.) (Guardian’s coffee shop) resonate with identity of brand
identity
brand — they still have cachet even if people aren’t buying your journalism
research
platform/storytelling for the newsmaker — confers status on a person

What are models already in place?
Media Consortium: An association of nonprofit journalism organizations that get money from engaged individual members. The key piece is the email newsletter — the direct mail of the modern age. Anywhere from 1 to 5 percent of your email newsletter signups will give you money.
Banyan: Tapping into the co-op model. 100s of members of community pay $36 to buy-in. If you’re a member, you have equity in the publishing company. You have a vote in the annual meeting. You have a voice. You are included in material that people who read the news on the site don’t get. What we’re monetizing is “a sense of civic potency.”
Texas Tribune is an example of “add ons” being the core product — their events are about bringing experts in speak to the community directly instead of through text. Directly related to stories you’re producing. There’s a lot of $ and staff time to be lost when people think about engagement tools as separate from news gathering/organization.
Bitter Southerner and This Land: They have created a “brand” that resonates with people, and then created products centered on that brand that people/members buy/get that then put their brand into new spaces.
Public Media model: Membership that has benefits or something in it.

Five things media organizations can do or consider to would elevate people to pay for them?
Sell services, not news. Be bolder. We are not just news providers.
Protect your relationship with your audience
Develop an identity that resonates with a particular audience; have a strong brand identity that makes you unique in the space; distinguish your identity
Consider the power and potential of tech spaces/platforms as ways to outreach/consider your brand. How do you want to engage with those spaces?
Be clear about your value and impact. Make sure you know why people should give you money.
Invest in marketing.

A (rough) transcription of the whole conversation if you’re just super interested:
What is missing so that people might want to pay for it?

Jo Ellen: Media Consortium — association of nonprofit. journo orgs that get money from engaged individual members
— standard growing to turn engaged people into capital
— key piece is email newsletter — the direct mail of the modern age. if you can get someone on your email newsletter, a portion of them will become donors (anyone from 1 to 5 percent will give you money)
the act of giving their name indicates they want to be involved with you
— people have tried a lot of things.
hard to get donations via Facebook, twitter, etc.
more effective to crowd fund around a particular topic or real content
not infrastructure or “i need a better website” but a story people would be interested in
— ask people to become sustaining members — not a one time donation — and then give them a benefit, which is often intangible (conversation with your editor, for example)

There are ways that people are already monetizing engagement, but it’s not a 100 percent thing.

Bruce:
Why do people consume news
— to be entertained
— to be informed
So what are some practical things we could put into a paper that would help people in real life, in real time? “News to use”

Jo Ellen:
— Connection to a community through their news
that’s where you get a connection to a brand; not necessarily for info
about expressing my identity and not about what I’m getting

Cylvia — Solutions-based journalism — that’s my movement; (Yes! Magazine = better quality, in depth, etc.) I support them because it’s walking my talk, my values, etc. We need that deeper coverage. They take more time with significant issues.

Susan: If what people value in a certain media environment is conversation in the comments, the events The Atlantic puts on, etc.?

Meghann: Is there a difference between traditional engagement online vs. member adds of events, etc.
Is that something that people would be more interested in, rather than funding the product of journalism?
It’s an added burden on newsrooms to do that.

Jo Ellen: It’s really important that add-ons should be the core product. Texas Tribune is an example — their events are about bringing experts in speak to the community directly instead of through text. Directly related to stories you’re producing.
There’s a lot of $ and staff time to be lost when people think about engagement tools as separate from news gathering/organization.

Talia — a lot of it depends on the actual outlet
Talking about funding in terms of $ donations, but I think we could also think about bartering — people staff an event, coding, etc.

Bill — is membership subscription? Subscription = getting something you couldn’t get otherwise. Membership might not mean that.

Jo Ellen — most of us need to choose between membership and subscription. Subscription is transaction. Membership is engagement, member of your team.
You can’t have a database that is members and subscribers. Membership is fluid, time based, about how people are connected to you in different ways. Membership model gives you access to donors; subscription doesn’t.
Donors under $100 don’t care if tax deductible.

Bill — With a lot of pub. radio, a membership benefit can be a subscription to their monthly magazine.

Subscription can be under membership, but not usually the other way around.

It’s a lower bar to just subscribe to something. You don’t have to identify with it. It’s an easier ask.

Susan — Tricycle Magazine with a membership model that gave you a giant list of things you can get — one is a subscription and a lot isn’t.

Todd: Think about who your audience is. That drives it. A lot of it has to do with audience.

But then is your audience limited when you go after a specific niche?

Yes! Magazine goes after progressives (lots there). Can’t just talk to the choir, you’ve got to expand. Mission is to inspire social change. To do that we need to go beyond people who are already thinking how we think. “Toe dippers” — people who are interested but not activists.

Cylvia — examples of where the new economy is working is what has her hooked. That lights my people up. I think that’s a powerful tool that you have. It’s countering apocalypse fatigue.

Tom — Cooperative model of ownership. Banyan biz plan foundation is ownership of a community’s publisher by 100s of members of community the way shoppers own a food co-op. If you’re a member, you have equity in the publishing company. You have a vote in the annual meeting. You have a voice. You are included in material that people who read the news on the site don’t get. What we’re monetizing is “a sense of civic potency.” In any population there are some people who really care about the quality of life in the community. There’s a lot to be said for that.
This is the illusive new revenue stream. Your first payment when you join goes into equity. Your subsequent annual payments go to operation fund.

Bill — members get access to some material and services?
Tom — everyone gets to read the news for free. But you if you want to take part in conversation, you have to be a member.
Minimum is $36/year ($0.10 a day)
Rest is from advertising.

Bill — most people who have a mission-driven way of thinking don’t want to be blocked by subscription. How can you create a biz model with significant revenue coming from user but product is open to anyone.

Free-to-play games — change the way the game is paid if you pay more money (better weapons, etc.). Multi-player games dynamic is that people who pay have the advantage.

Rather than selling the story as the product, we need to be thinking about selling a service for which the journalism is just part of the service.

Meghann — Aggregators have changed the game. Even if you have to pay for it, it’s free somewhere else. Are we thinking too big in terms of money? Is there a lower bar of entry — a penny to read an article. iTunes = don’t even think about it. It’s not worth it for me to do that with journalism?

Bruce — But options. Even if you feel inclined to pay for something, you have five million other options.

The product is disposable.

Dan — but does it have to be financial. Tweet this and you can read it?

Bill — the value might be something other than paying the organization.

Meghann — You could get the most eyeballs in the world, but you’ll still go under without money.

Todd — the point of view of a news organization. Niche vs. mass appeal. It’s much easier to build a biz model around something people are truly passionate about. A more mainstream publication without a point of view — local/national.
ProPublica — broad mission/point of view. Doesn’t have to be political, but identity that sets you apart from just being journalism.

Resonates with someone’s identity in one way or another. That can be a broad, scalable identity.

It’s harder to do on the local scale.

Why doesn’t it translate? If i care about state/city, etc, why not pay?

Cylvia — quality of journalism matters as well

chicken/egg

Bill — people who do journalism as a mission or biz have something to sell:
point of view
curation of the broader information ecosystem
insight
knowledge (taking info and making into knowledge by adding your expertise)
personalize to individual users (something legacy media hasn’t been able to do)
inspiration
opportunity for engagement (comments, discussion, etc.): being heard and also participating
social capital
have a question or something to add to an article
newsroom — being able to come into the space? third space services (you live at home, you work at work but your intellectual, social, community, emotional fulfillment occurs in a third space [a bar, starbucks, what we’re doing here is a third space for us]
should media buy spaces (coffee shops, bars, restaurants, etc.) (Guardian’s coffee shop) resonate with identity of brand
identity
brand — they still have cachet even if people aren’t buying your journalism
research
platform/storytelling for the newsmaker — confers status on a person

Even if you don’t think you can sell your stories, there are a tremendous number of things we have for sale. We have to have the self-confidence to ask people to pay for these things.

Experiment — Nader and (??) moderated comments — access to people

Todd: Bumper sticker effect. What are media orgs that people are willing to put on a bumper sticker.

Redesigning newspapers — meet focus groups — you’ll never meet more different people. They go to their newspaper for entire different reasons. Beyond the brand, they want the newspaper for completely different reasons.

Bill: How to put that list into a bottle and make it exclusive? Don’t stop putting hard news, investigative stories on site for free, but put a wall around all the other value adds.

Nathan: We know we have this to sell. People who read don’t know all that. What is knowledge? What is inspiration? How do we get the confidence to say these are things you need? What if no one knows it’s there? We have to convince people.

Bruce — fantasy football players — what would you have to talk about if you didn’t have this? news is the same way — find yourself in a conversation lull, donald trump comes up.

news is a way to make yourself more interesting.

Tom — bigger frame has to do with what you monetize. almost every print news product for 150 years has monetized: eyeballs sold to advertisers, bundles news and people pay to have it delivered to their house.
now the news comes to you
Almost all of us struggling to figure out how to monetize advertising, ancillary sales to keep selves afloat. And it’s getting worse and worse all the time and no suggestion that ever get better.
What are you going to monetize?
Banyan = monetizing civic engagement

What can we monetize? It’s hard to know which tactics to apply without knowing what you’re going to monetize.

Role of tech companies in supporting media — Apple and Facebook
Apple News takes RSS feeds and puts them on Apple platform. Like an aggregator. Things show up in one stream, but when click, it’s on Apple.
Facebook Instant Articles — split ad dollars.
But what news orgs use is clicks to their site, connection to their curated experience.

Apple has a news team to create a better mobile experience. It is curated, but not sure how.

Bill — in real world if you make a product and only purchaser is Walmart you’re screwed if Walmart says can’t sell unless you make it cheaper. this is suicidal if this is the only way.

Tom — then you’re a supplier, you’re not an entity. that’s dangerous.

Cylvia — nervous. it just further concentrates the corportacracy.

Flip the page back and look at the list of things you might monetize. Find another stream. Change your model.

Phil Napoli — Walled Gardens. more transparency about how they work, then maybe. there’s too much that’s opaque about how process works.

Ed Madison — looking at engagement as level of trust and relationship you’ve built with an audience. mainstream journalism hasn’t done that. apple has — i care about their product. when they do bad things i take it personally. journalism institutions need to engage with public in a manner that people care and take ownership of what they are doing.

Todd — What is biz model? Breadth and eyeballs? Or casting a narrower net, looking for deeper engagement for stories.

Talia — from a consumer perspective, it’s a great thing. it’s easy. i think underestimating good side of it to audience.

ed — but what algorithim is doing is pushing stories to you already aligned to interests. public not finding things that push them to question what they already think?

sense of discovery

take the best of what apple is doing — value add to what you guys do.

Bruce — journalism moving the way of the music industry — go independent to make money, use platforms to advertise and get self out there and money make on “tours” or “merchandise”

Tom — reader’s digest model — magazine not a cent; made money on direct marketing of books and records to list of people who getting magazine

todd — this land press, in tulsa, Okla. progressive sensibility in a red state. cool logo, monetize their brand and identity in a bunch of ways
bitter southerner

what if local news organizations thought about verticals within their platform that would tap into those identities? do mainstream media need to be thinking about those niches and pushing into them?

susan — new economy movement coverage. we heart co-ops event that yes threw. we could build on that. there’s so much co-op love.

ed — when you erase the route (apple and Facebook) you lose the relationship/identity

infotrust.org — disrupt aggregation platforms nonprofit to create a standard platform — maintain user base put a face on it on your own and take part

Five things media organizations can do or consider to would elevate people to pay for them?
Sell services, not news. Be bolder. We are not just news providers.
Protect your relationship with your audience
Develop an identity that resonates with a particular audience; have a strong brand identity that makes you unique in the space; distinguish your identity
Consider the power and potential of tech spaces/platforms as ways to outreach/consider your brand. How do you want to engage with those spaces?
Be clear about your value and impact. Make sure you know why people should give you money.
Invest in marketing.