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Hub Report: How audience impacts membership revenue

We recently completed our latest analysis of Hub client revenue patterns, and we’re pleased to share the findings.

Our discoveries include significant revenue increases for first-year clients, a strong connection between email list size and member revenue, strong support for nonprofits in particular, and more.

Hub data scientist Erin Boon has analyzed client revenue data each year since its launch in 2016, and this year’s analysis is the most sophisticated — and revealing — yet. “So far, the Hub’s efforts have made one thing clear: the biggest factors that impact revenue are the organization’s brand and audience,” said Rebecca Quarls, the Hub’s director of data and strategy. “But in order to dig deeper, we need to run data-driven analyses like this one. We’d also like to understand the broader trends about client performance, donor habits, and the state of journalism as a cause.”

So, what did we learn?

The Hub will supercharge your existing membership program

It’s official: Working with the Hub pays off.

On average, clients that already had some sort of reader revenue program before joining the News Revenue Hub earned 74% more in their first year with the Hub than in the year before they joined. The average additional revenue was $46,250.

Quarls said these organizations’ constituents are already primed for giving. “The Hub helps them put a technology infrastructure in place to run more sophisticated campaigns more often and to optimize how they ask readers for financial support,” she said.

So, what’s the takeaway for newsrooms that haven’t started asking their audiences to financially support them? The sooner you start making the case for reader investment, the better!

Donors understand local is critical — and they support it

Overall, email list size is associated with member revenue, but there’s a bigger payoff for local outlets. Across local newsrooms, each additional 100 subscribers converted to an additional $102/month in revenue. Compare that to all clients, where each additional 100 subscribers is associated with an additional $9/month in earnings.

We also discovered a correlation between web traffic and member revenue — but mainly for local and regional newsrooms. For local newsrooms, each additional 10,000 average monthly site users is associated with an additional $300/month in revenue. And for regional newsrooms, an additional 10,000 average monthly site users is associated with an additional $500/month in revenue.

“Our research suggests that actively working to convert site users to newsletter subscribers has a downstream impact on revenue,” explained Quarls. “And there’s an even bigger payoff for local newsrooms that aggressively pursue subscribers and build reader-first newsletter products.”

Being nonprofit makes a difference — and so does reader income

Over the last year, nonprofits earned almost $175,000 more on average than their for-profit counterparts: nonprofits earned a total of $237,000 on average ($220,000 median) versus for-profits, which earned $52,000 on average ($34,000 median). Worth noting, though: there are limited data to make this comparison. As we take on additional clients, we will be curious to learn whether the disparity continues in such dramatic terms.

We also discovered an association between market median income and member revenue: newsrooms in wealthier areas, especially nonprofit newsrooms, tend to raise more. For nonprofits, each additional $1,000 in market median income is associated with an additional $415/month in revenue.

“We know through our work that people will support journalism if you ask, and it doesn’t matter whether you’re a for-profit or a non-profit. But for-profits have to work harder when it comes to explaining their business model and readers’ vital role in supporting it,” said Quarls.

Helping to explain differences among clients

The goal of these revenue analyses is to offer an explanation of the sources in that variation — whether it’s for-profit versus non-profit, email list size, or market income. It’s an ongoing process, and one we’ll keep at as we collect new data points.

“Hub clients, and newsrooms in general, vary in terms of member revenue success. But we’re all in this together,” said Tristan Loper, EVP and Co-Founder of the News Revenue Hub. “We want our clients to succeed — and we want to help the industry as a whole, if it helps raise funds for journalism.”

We’ll continue to share our findings as we produce new reports.

Click here to read the report


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