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How memberships enable independent media to stay truly independent

Why is independent media important? 

Independent media help keep our democracies honest. They offer platforms to the voices we don’t hear enough from and provide expert insight into topics the mainstream news media isn’t always able to cover. Independent publications cover crucial niches that keep us well-informed and make our lives more colourful.

Who are independent creators? 

By  “independent creators” we mean the journalists, podcasters, bloggers, Youtubers and Instagrammers who deliver authentic, high-quality online content.

The one thing independent creators tend to share is their common struggle: how to generate income from their work? 

Independent media draw devoted audiences and build strong communities, while struggling to keep their projects afloat and pay their writers, designers,  photographers and other colleagues.

Thankfully, a growing number of creators — from behemoths like The Guardian to independent publishers like gal-dem (Opens in a new window) — have landed on a solution that keeps them free from the grip of  advertisers and able to earn a sustainable income. That solution is memberships.

Memberships allow publishers to earn sustainable support from their community. As it turns out, the people who appreciate the work of these publishers are often willing to pay money to show their support and, together, they generate enough income for publishers to rely on, allowing them to keep  the lights on and even plan for the future.

The key to independent media: The power of community

As with a subscription, members support a publication by paying a regular,  recurring sum — usually each month. But while subscribers might pay to receive a print copy or digital access to a newspaper, memberships aren’t simply transactional.

Memberships are about upholding the relationship between a creator and their community. They enable people who value an independent publication to give money, time, expertise and ideas to support that publication.

People become members in order to support or show appreciation for a publication (Opens in a new window) and help keep it running or even improve its content. They are motivated by their wish to support a creator because they see their interests or values aligning with the creator’s and feel an affiliation with their project. Their shows of support with regular payments, sharing expertise or getting their hands dirty help strengthen the community surrounding the publication and its long-term viability.

Thinking long-term with memberships

Memberships also differ from donations and crowdfunding, because they enable sustainable support.

The following chart illustrates the difference between four types of business models: subscriptions, ads, donations and memberships. The  combination of personal connection, benefits and a focus on community are what make memberships so special:

What’s in it for me?

Some creators offer their members additional benefits to thank them for their support. This might be a shoutout in a podcast, a personalised postcard or access to exclusive articles, videos or podcast episodes. At  Steady (Opens in a new window), we’ve found that in most cases members aren’t paying for what they will get in return — instead, they are motivated first and foremost from the warm feeling of enabling the publishers they love to get on with their work.

With communities invested in the publications they love, it’s only logical for those publishers to ask their communities for support.

Topic Why Memberships?