The Hub and 2019: A year of growth and audience focus
As we kick off 2020 and look back at last year, it’s starting to sink in: 2019 was a year of immense growth for the News Revenue Hub and our newsroom partners.
“When you’re in the thick of things working with nearly 50 newsrooms, launching new services and participating in big sector-wide projects, it’s hard to absorb and appreciate everything that is being accomplished,” said Chief Executive Officer Mary Walter-Brown.
“Every time we welcome a new organization into the Hub, we learn something that can help others be more successful.”
In 2019, the Hub diversified its membership to include print media like The Capital Times, an alt-weekly in Madison, Wisconsin and The Salt Lake Tribune, a 148-year-old paper that recently made history by becoming a nonprofit. Miami NPR station WLRN, African-American-owned talk radio station WURD Radio (one of only three in the country), and global Spanish-language podcast Radio Ambulante also came aboard.
The learning and sharing increase with each new organization that joins. “As our member base expands, so do the opportunities for real-time learning,” said Tristan Loper, Executive Vice President and co-founder.
With insights and data from our custom technology the Hub is able to experiment with approaches, refine strategies, and analyze trends among newsrooms of different size and scope. “We’re constantly learning. Our members are also committed to openness and a spirit of sharing” added Loper. “All this benefits our members and the news industry as a whole.”
Millions raised for journalism
In 2019, through our support, advice, and technology, we helped our members raise more than $8 million from their readers and listeners — that’s over $6 million in the bank for 2019 and another $2 million in recurring donations pledged for 2020.
Across the board, Hub members have seen a 50% increase in fundraising within one year of working with us.
Audience Lab and consulting projects
A major area of focus in 2019 was creating an audience and product team, aimed at helping our partner newsrooms boost their reach and loyalty. Thanks to a multi-year grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, we hired Evan Mackinder, our director of audience development, in August. Since then, Mackinder has worked intensively with a pilot cohort of seven Hub newsrooms, as part of a new partnership with the Google News Initiative.
The GNI Audience Lab is aimed at growing publishers’ audiences through recommendations on loyalty, user experience, SEO, newsletters and organizational structure. This work will continue in 2020 with additional news outlets taking part in a phase two cohort. And, the Hub will roll out other projects with the Google News Initiative in 2020 focused on exploring new business models.
“We began 2019 with a goal to expand our offerings in audience and product development because we saw how critically those efforts factor into continued growth in membership,” said Walter-Brown. “Through our work with the Google News Initiative this year, we’ve enhanced our partners’ understanding of best practices in audience development and how newsrooms can restructure roles, priorities and workflows to more effectively execute those strategies.”
We also expanded our services to help startups and legacy news organizations in a consulting capacity — with projects underway in Fort Worth and Miami. More on that in the coming months.
The Hub’s most intense period of internal growth has taken place in the past six months. In addition to hiring a Director of Audience, we brought on an additional Project Manager, Alma Washington, and a Business Development Coordinator, Anne Marie Grisanti.
Just this week, we announced that Daniel Craigmile, currently at Texas Tribune, will join the Hub as Vice President of Technology. Starting in February, Craigmile will manage our technology tools and work to develop scalable solutions that address common needs across the sector.
“With a growing staff and other initiatives in the works, I’m really proud of what we’ve accomplished this year,” said Walter-Brown. “And I’m even more excited to see what 2020 brings.”