Public Media Membership Goes to a Newspaper
I’m spending 2016 putting a public media membership style model to work at a newspaper. It’s an interesting proposition for a few different reasons, the first one being that the paper is not a big daily in a top 20 market. The question I’ll be trying to answer is:
Do Rural Markets Have the Ability to Scale Up a Membership Program Only Using Regionally Produced Content?
We know in public media that rural markets have the ability to scale up membership revenue, but it’s reliant on the network effect — national programming that brings in the bulk of the revenue during a pledge drive. That money pays for local content production. But my goal this year will be to leverage the paper’s original content — from the newsroom, by our bloggers and through the production of video and audio content from our events series.
In theory, exclusivity and early access are the reasons people subscribe or become members. PBS is banking on this for the success of PBS Passport, where $50 a year members get access to the entire PBS archives on demand. I suspect it’s a weak attempt at garnering new members and a full on tactic to create added value for long time, existing members. I’ll be curious to see how the numbers shake out as stations adopt Passport this year.