Yes, engaging with your readers will help you make money. Another study proves it.

We Are Hearken
Published in
3 min readMay 22, 2017


Bitch Media just released a one-year study they did to see if using Hearken to engage with their readers would result in more people becoming paying supporters of the media organization. Much to our delight (but not surprise), the answer was a resounding “yes” — readers who engage are more likely to become financial backers, and that engagement effort will more than pay for itself.

The study is a good read for anyone working in news, particularly at a place with a business model that includes direct audience support by way of subscriptions or membership. (And as advertising rates for news organizations continue to decline, paying subscribers and membership models are increasingly looking like a worthwhile approach.) When you’re asking the audience directly for support, there’s no more compelling argument to give then “we truly listen to you, and actually make the work you’re asking for.”

While it might be news to some news organizations that meaningful, direct engagement with the public translates into bottom-line wins, it’s something that many other industries have known and tested for a long time.

The case study was produced as part of the Innovation Fund grant program run by the Institute for Nonprofit News and funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Democracy Fund.

Here are four of our favorite nuggets:

  • “Hearken-engaged readers, Bitch Media learned, were between two and five times more likely to convert to sustaining membership than ordinary readers. … The conversion rates were so dramatic that Bitch Media’s editorial and engagement teams plan to integrate Hearken into more of its content this year.”
  • “Over the course of the project, Bitch Media published 20 pieces of content prompted by a Hearken question and influenced by readers’ pre-publication input. … As expected, audience engagement went up. That, after all, is what Hearken promises to do. With Hearken-involved stories, readers spent an average of 9 minutes and 21 seconds either reading or listening. In comparison, readers spent 7 minutes and 35 seconds, on average, for stories that were not informed by a Hearken question.”
  • “To cover or exceed the costs associated with the Hearken rollout, it needed to add 48 new members who had engaged with the platform during the year-long experiment. In the end, it added 55 new members thanks to Hearken. That translates into a projected $7,000 in support in the first year and — because the average member lifespan is 20.4 weeks — should also translate into another $4,901 in support in the organization’s 2017 budget cycle.”

Read the case study by publisher Kate Lesniak over on the INN website here.

Looking for more proof that audience engagement is great for the business side of your newsroom, not just the editorial side?

  • Bay Curious has proven to be extremely popular and widely viewed, generating 11 to 15 times more page views than the newsroom’s other stories. These stories are responsible for more engagement with audiences than KQED typically sees in their other blog posts.”
    A third party study of Hearken partner KQED
  • WBEZ compared the emails generated from their Hearken-powered series Curious City against their CRM (customer relationship manager) and found those emails were 56% new leads for membership.
    — Source: WBEZ
  • Charlottesville Tomorrow found they were able to charge six times more for display advertising alongside their public-powered series Curious Cville than for traditional digital advertising spots.

Want to talk about this chance to make both your editorial and business colleagues happy? Get in touch.

Want to learn how to better engage the public? Download our free engagement checklist guide.



We Are Hearken

News organizations use Hearken to meaningfully engage the public as a story develops from pitch through publication. Founders: @JenniferBrandel @coreyhaines