Add ThinkProgress to the list of publishers hunting for reader revenue. On Oct. 30, the left-leaning publisher launched a campaign to sign up 1,000 people for a new membership program by year’s end. The program aims to offset losses from programmatic advertising that the publisher says come from being classified as a site that focuses on “controversial subjects.”
The content on the site remains free. Paying members get access to a private Facebook group that gives them direct access to ThinkProgress editors and reporters, along with, of course, the knowledge that they are supporting ThinkProgress’ original reporting. The monthly pricing starts with a pay-what-you-want tier that starts at $3 and includes $5, $15 and $35 tiers, although there is no difference in perks or features between the tiers. Some readers, according to the publisher, are contributing $50 per month.
Over 600 members have already signed up, ThinkProgress’ editor-in-chief, Judd Legum, said. While that’s short of ThinkProgress’ 1,000-member target, which expected everyone to sign up at the $5 tier, enough people have signed up for the upper membership tiers that the program is set to earn more than the publisher had hoped to raise.
“We’re not offering a ton of extra goodies,” Legum said. “It’s really about supporting the journalism.”
ThinkProgress is turning toward reader revenue at a moment when it’s facing unprecedented monetization challenges. While hard news has always been hard to monetize, Legum said the site’s coverage of white nationalism and other hot-button political issues led to it being classified as a site that publishes “inflammatory politics and news” content and fewer ads.
“We are being financially punished for our work exposing racism,” a call to action on ThinkProgress’ site reads.
The membership operation, like the rest of the 40-person outfit, is lean: It’s overseen by Jonathon Padron, a business development manager at the Center for American Progress, the nonprofit that runs ThinkProgress, with help from edit and art staffers. EveryAction, a product created by the Democratic Party’s technology provider, NGP VAN, powers the program’s customer relationship management system.
ThinkProgress is promoting the program through calls to action at the bottom of its articles (its biggest source of sign-ups), email blasts to ThinkProgress’ 100,000 active subscribers and organic posts on Facebook and Twitter. While Facebook’s audience is bigger, Legum said Twitter has been more effective, in part because that’s where ThinkProgress’ most engaged readers are. “Those are the people who read 10 articles per month,” said Legum, noting that Facebook’s traffic is less predictable.
ThinkProgress’ call to action is notable in an environment where the economics of news remain poorly understood. “We see low awareness of what it costs to produce the news,” said Emily Goligoski, the research director of the Membership Puzzle Project, a collaborative venture helmed by De Correspondent and NYU’s Studio 20.
ThinkProgress has raised money directly from its audience before. It ran what Legum described as a “successful,” “low-dollar” fundraising campaign shortly after Donald Trump won the 2016 election, though he wouldn’t say how much money was raised.
As well as that went, Legum said, it occurred after an extraordinary, one-time event. “Thinking about that from a budgetary perspective, it’s hard to know what to do with that because it’s not consistent,” he said.
Media ERGs foster community among hybrid workforces
Managers at media firms are intent on fostering company culture and connection among their hybrid employees. ERGs are proving to be a valuable channel for achieving those goals.
Member ExclusiveMedia Buying Briefing: From Cannes Lions, wrestling with measurement, fraud and the ‘multiverse’
Ask 10 media buyers their most important issues at Cannes Lions, you’ll get 11 different answers. The one consistent theme expressed: happiness at being able to get together again in person to share ideas, visions, deals and frustrations.
‘The juice is not always worth the squeeze’: Publishers evaluate cost-per-click pricing models in their commerce businesses
Vice Media Group and Hunker see an opportunity for CPC pricing, but Wirecutter doesn't think it's worth the effort.
SponsoredFor brands, first-party data is unlocking the cookieless ecosystem
Bill Masterson, President, Publishers Clearing House A dominant factor guiding the industry has been that cookies and mobile app IDs are vanishing and will be replaced by some mixture of new and emergent identity solutions. As a result, the market is alive with new and exciting alternatives to replace the third-party browser cookie and mobile […]
Digiday DealBook: Walmart’s new advertisement deals, Twitch’s change to streamer revenue, Equal Entertainment Acquiring Pride Media, and more
Walmart's new advertisement deals, Twitch's change to streamer revenue, Equal Entertainment Acquiring Pride Media, and more in this week's Digiday DealBook.
Why rent-to-own brand Aaron’s tapped Mr. T to enhance brand awareness
Rent-to-own retailer Aaron's is looking to boost brand awareness through bilingual TV spots as well as out-of-home and print ads -- all with a little help from Mr. T.