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Best Practices

The Hub as a Personal Trainer

Since the News Revenue Hub was launched in November 2016, we’ve seen a lot of growth. We are working with 35 newsrooms, are expanding our team and services offered, and have helped clients raise more than $14 million in secured and pledged donations. And while we’re thrilled with this growth, we’re always striving to be even better.

The Hub began 2019 focused on three big questions, all aimed to help us continue to expand and improve our services:

  1. How do we serve new clients better?
  2. How do we help existing clients overcome plateaus?
  3. How do we share best practices with other newsrooms?

Now that we’re heading into the third quarter of 2019, we’ve got answers to those questions. See below for what we’ve found so far.

News Revenue Report: 3 Big Things

How do we serve new clients better?

“One of the things we’ve always been proud of is our ability to respond rapidly to clients, but as we grow, it becomes harder to be so responsive,” shared Tristan Loper, executive vice president and co-founder of the News Revenue Hub. Hiring a project coordinator has helped solve that problem.

Sam Hoisington joined the Hub in January as a project coordinator, allowing us to keep up with our growing client roster — and their requests. Hoisington oversees the onboarding and launch process, and serves as clients’ main point of contact.

“He adds a whole new level of service,” said Loper, from setting up membership campaigns, to giving detailed attention to copy, to assisting with the tech setup.

How do we help existing clients overcome plateaus?

Whenever you make progress toward a goal, there eventually comes a point where you hit a plateau — the growth starts to level out. For Hub clients, the two most common plateaus are email list growth and audience growth.

Mary Walter-Brown, the Hub’s chief executive officer, is determined to help clients push past those plateaus. “This year the analogy of the Hub as a personal trainer has really come into focus,” said Walter-Brown. “We are constantly pushing our clients to surpass their past performance as well as the Hub benchmarks.”

“As we looked to the top of the funnel to see what our clients are doing to attract new audiences and develop products to serve the casual reader, we found that the majority of them needed help with audience and product development,” Walter-Brown explained.

That insight inspired us to seek funding for an audience and product team. The Knight Foundation recently awarded the Hub a three-year, $1.5 million grant to begin building out the team.

We’re currently interviewing candidates and hope to make our first hire in June. With an audience and product team in place, we’ll work with clients to develop innovative approaches and strategies to grow audiences in new ways.

How do we share best practices with other newsrooms?

From the start, the Hub’s goal has been to help news organizations achieve greater sustainability. And in our work with 35+ clients to implement membership programs, we learn a lot.

Loper explained that the Hub aims to consistently take advantage of opportunities with client newsrooms to conduct research, run experiments, and gather data to prove out best practices.

“I think a lot about ways we can move the needle in terms of revenue or reader loyalty,” said Loper. He shared that the most profound work so far has been by Hub director of strategy Rebecca Quarls. Her efforts to establish benchmarks on audience growth, conversion and retention have helped inform clients over the past year.

Quarls has also been instrumental in running A/B tests and experiments for clients. “Not every experiment proves us right, but each one helps us learn something new,” explained Loper.

Regular Hub newsletters — like this! — are one way that we’ll share those takeaways.

“We’ve been really impressed by the willingness of audiences to give,” said Loper. “Journalism as a cause is a pretty new concept for a lot of people, but once you talk it through, they realize how much they value it and how much they need it.”

“We think we can still do a lot more” in terms of raising revenue and increasing audience loyalty for clients, said Loper.

“It’s important to keep pushing our clients beyond what they realize they can do,” agreed Walter-Brown. “I think we’ve become known in the industry as being bold and opinionated. We can do better, and aren’t apologetic about wanting to be better. We all have to keep pushing ourselves if we want to build sustainable business models for journalism.”


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