Project: A public research project at New York University’s journalism institute to study how news organizations are diversifying their revenue, optimizing for trust, and encouraging members to participate in their journalism.
People: I manage the Membership Puzzle Project with Jay Rosen and in partnership with the Dutch journalism platform De Correspondent. Our work is funded by Democracy Fund, Luminate, and the Knight Foundation.
With decreases in funding for news organizations and crises in public trust, we need to create sustainable paths forward that are more inclusive of audience needs. Membership is one approach to revenue generation and public inclusion and has yet to be comprehensively studied. As research director for the project, I lead a global team of designers, reporters, and researchers working to create knowledge products and design principles for the news industry.
The Membership Puzzle Project:
Collects what's already known about making membership work by seeking out the people who have deep experience with membership models (including members themselves). Details about our research collaborations can be seen with The Guardian, the Tow Center at Columbia, and the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin.
Researches all the ways that community members can contribute, not just their money, but their knowledge and expertise. We offer a public database of membership models within news, the first such offering for program understanding and ideation.
Funds innovative membership models that are being tested at news sites as part of a global experiment to identify best practices for sustaining independent journalism in the 21st century.
With this knowledge, helps De Correspondent launch The Correspondent in 2019. In late 2018, De Correspondent crowdfunded $2.6MM for its ad-free, inclusive English language platform. Founding members were invited to join a movement for “unbreaking news,” for which they’ll contribute in communities of knowledgeable members. The campaign became the most participatory journalism crowdfunding project in history.
As we synthesize key membership lessons with journalism organizations around the world, we hope to learn what you know.