San Diego – With support from the Democracy Fund, pioneering online news organization Voice of San Diego is launching the News Revenue Hub, a pilot project that will centralize the management of nonprofit membership programs for news organizations that want to monetize their audiences.

Five news organizations were selected to participate in the yearlong pilot including InsideClimate News, NJ Spotlight, Honolulu Civil Beat, The Lens and PolitiFact.

A team headed by Voice of San Diego Publisher/COO Mary Walter-Brown is working with each organization to create customized membership programs – complete with exclusive donor benefits, donation landing pages, automated email campaigns and database management. The goal of the Hub will be to accelerate the diffusion of best practices and help newsrooms of all sizes build and manage successful revenue strategies rooted in engaging and serving their community.

“All of the news organizations in the pilot provide a critical service in their field,” said Walter-Brown. “By allowing them to outsource the complex database management and email marketing components of a membership program, it lets them focus on producing high-impact reporting and cultivating deeper relationships with their supporters.”

Photo by Vito Di Stefano
Photo by Vito Di Stefano

Built around the SalesForce customer relationship management system with custom integrations to MailChimp and Stripe, Voice of San Diego developed much of the back-end technology for the membership program during a two-year joint project with MinnPost funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Voice of San Diego has been a leader in the membership space since launching its membership program in 2012. In 2016, it expects to bring in 18% of its overall revenue from members giving anywhere from $35 to $5,000, with another 37% coming from high level donors giving between $5,000 and $200,000.

The News Revenue Hub services include the execution of recruitment and retention email campaigns, managing and maintaining each organization’s separate database of contacts, helping participants develop effective lead acquisition features on their sites and working with their marketing teams to capitalize on high impact stories.

All five organizations in the pilot will formally launch their membership programs in December with a month-long campaign. After that, the Hub team will execute ongoing campaigns designed to convert casual readers to sustaining members.

“We believe that the future of journalism is dependent on newsrooms that are more collaborative and more engaged with their communities,” said Josh Stearns of the Democracy Fund. “The News Revenue Hub allows newsrooms to do what they do best and partner with peers in the industry to expand their impact, reach and sustainability.”

More about the pilot organizations: InsideClimate News is a Pulitzer Prize-winning nonprofit news site focused on the climate crisis. NJ Spotlight is a nonprofit news organization covering New Jersey politics and policy with a focus on the Statehouse. Honolulu Civil Beat recently became a nonprofit and is the largest news outlet dedicated to public affairs reporting about Hawaii. The Lens is New Orleans first nonprofit, nonpartisan public-interest newsroom dedicated to unique in-depth reporting projects and exclusive daily stories. Pulitzer Prize-winning PolitiFact is the fact-checking national news product of the Tampa Bay Times.

Mary Walter-Brown was formerly the publisher and COO at Voice of San Diego. She is now Chief Executive Officer of News Revenue Hub and can be reached at...

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