These Online Publications Are Not Free … and Readers Don’t Mind

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The Daily Memphian, Memphis’ non-profit news site, is also part the wave. Most of its revenue comes from readers. The website was launched in 2018 in response the shrinking of The Commercial Appeal. Eric Barnes (the publication’s chief executive) said that the subscription service has nearly 17,000 customers who pay $99 per annum (12.99/month for The Memphian). They also renew their subscriptions at 90 percent. Spend $5 million each year to support a newsroom with 38 journalists.

“People paid for news for decades,” Mr. Barnes said. “Why can’t people pay for it now?”

The Memphian’s journalism has been influenced by the need to keep subscribers, he said. The publication focuses on simple articles about local issues. The publication was connected to readers through its coverage on the Replacement East Memphis’s Century Building. It also featured Woodie’s Wax Shack convenience store/carwash.

Mr. Barnes stated that he opposed offering subscribers discounts, a strategy that was supported by Matt Lindsay, president of Mather Economics. Lindsay said that the main reason readers declined to renew was not because of the cost of a subscription.

“Usually, it is some other reason,” explained Mr. Lindsay. His clients include The New York Times. “They stop reading daily because there is more entertainment. Someone else has attracted their interest.”

Quartz, a business news site, was founded in the days before the advent of free journalism. It began asking its readers to pay for their content in 2018. In addition to 1.3 million regular readers of its newsletters, which are still offered free of charge, it has 27,000 subscribers who pay $99.99 a year (or $14.99 a month), a Quartz spokeswoman said, and the renewal rate is 97 percent.

Katherine Bell, editor in chief, said that it is essential to listen and respond to readers to retain customers.

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