Skip to content Skip to footer

News Revenue Hub crosses monumental $100 million mark in contributions raised for newsrooms

It’s a milestone worth celebrating: As of this week, the News Revenue Hub has helped raise a total of $100 million for newsrooms and journalism organizations across North America.

Through hands-on support, technology, toolkits and strategic counsel, the Hub has helped member news organizations raise $100 million in contributions and donations from their audiences. For Mary Walter-Brown, who co-founded the Hub in 2016, it’s a surreal milestone.

“The Hub began with just three employees and five pilot newsrooms that were willing to take a chance,” she said. “It’s incredible to see how much we’ve grown and even more amazing to see the membership movement we inspired in the journalism industry.”

Walter-Brown founded the Hub while still the publisher of Voice of San Diego alongside Voice alums Tristan Loper and Christina Shih. Setting out to prove that Voice of San Diego’s success could be replicated across the country, they scaled an approach that helped newsrooms develop a deeper and more transparent dialogue with their audiences. It was a move they believed would earn readers’ trust and financial support.

That theory proved to be true. The Hub team quickly began demonstrating that consumers across the U.S. were willing to financially support the news outlets that mattered most to them.

“We were proud of everything we had accomplished at the Voice, and were eager to share those learnings with other newsrooms,” Loper, the Hub’s co-founder and Chief Product Officer, recalled. “It’s amazing to reflect on how many newsrooms we’ve gotten to support since then, and how much our vision and impact has grown.”

Today, the Hub employs 20 full-time staffers and a team of specialized contractors. They work with more than 150 newsrooms, helping those organizations produce reliable member revenue each month.

As the Hub has grown, so has the money raised. “We’ve honed in on effective strategies that have created a real snowball effect,” said Sarah Bishop Woods, the Hub’s chief of staff. When Bishop Woods joined the Hub in May 2023, the organization had helped clients raise around $84 million. Just over six months later, the Hub hit the $100 million milestone. “Business as usual would have been a slow drip. But this team puts so much time and energy into understanding our newsrooms and their communities.”

Hitting this landmark is a testament to the Hub’s pivot to a full-funnel consulting service. In 2019, with support from Google News Initiative and the Knight Foundation, the Hub expanded its services to help newsrooms grow their overall readership and deepen their relationship with current and future readers. After all, membership doesn’t just materialize: If you want to grow your reader revenue program, you have to grow your readership first.

That pivot also allowed the Hub to invest in new skill sets on the consulting team. Today, the Hub’s consulting team is made up of individuals that have experience leading audience development, analytics, and membership strategies and teams across the news industry, including The Washington Post, Slate, Outside Magazine, Washington City Paper, Gannett, Quartz, and more.

“That kind of brain trust means we can meet any challenge our newsrooms have,” said Evan Mackinder, VP of Business Development. “We’re now able to serve just about any newsroom, of any size, and at any phase of growth, from local newsrooms that have been operating for decades, to regional stalwarts, to national heavyweights, to pre-launch start-ups.”

According to Abbey Gingras, the Hub’s director of consulting services, there are two major factors that contributed to reaching this milestone so quickly: several new newsrooms joined the Hub this year, and many veteran clients leveled up their strategies, learning new skills and experimenting with new Hub-driven fundraising tactics.

“We pride ourselves on evolving with the needs of our newsrooms,” said Walter-Brown. “As their needs become more sophisticated, our tools and tactics have had to keep pace. Our team is constantly learning, testing and developing new strategies with our most advanced clients, like The Guardian and The Texas Tribune, and then we scale them out to the rest of our cohort.”

In 2023, the Hub also launched a new software product, RevEngine, a self-service contribution management platform tailored specifically for news outlets. The Hub developed this product in response to the hundreds of small newsrooms they met over the years that needed a streamlined, affordable donation management system. RevEngine offers a totally free tier that small newsrooms can set up and start using instantly to process donations and contributions, along with an affordable Core tier of service that provides seamless email marketing integration.

This year, the Hub will be rolling out two new initiatives, a scaled advertising and sponsorship support service aimed at helping newsrooms reignite relationships with local and national businesses and a new analytics tool called Mission-Driven Metrics designed to help news outlets expand and diversify their audience reach and representation.

“To see small digital newsrooms be able to generate $100 million in voluntary donations from their audiences says something important about their reporting – and about the people that are willing to fund it,” said Walter-Brown. “Despite the challenges facing the industry, people still care deeply about news and are willing to spend their hard earned dollars to support publications they trust.”

As the Hub enters its eighth year, the team is more bullish than ever about encouraging newsrooms to take down their paywalls and, instead, focus on building a robust volunteer donor program. In late 2023, 126-year old publication the Forward worked with the Hub to remove its paywall and make its content freely available for the first time. In just the first day, hundreds of donations flooded the newsroom, 42% coming from new donors who had never paid to access the content previously.

To celebrate the $100 million milestone, throughout the year, the Hub will be showcasing client success stories, starting with the Forward’s amazing journey, and an update on the first five newsrooms that joined in 2016 and are still in the Hub today. Stay tuned!


Continue Reading