Wednesday, May 2, 2018

How Talking Points Memo has converted from an ad model to paid subscriptions

Readers now supply more than half the site's revenue.
Josh Marshall started out as a political blogger in 2000, made a business of it in 2003, won a George Polk Award, and has managed to stay independent through all the wild swings of the digital pendulum.

So his reflections on how to transition from an advertising business model to paid subscriptions have a certain authority.

He talked about the evolving business model of his site, Talking Points Memo, in a 47-minute podcast with Digiday Editor Brian Morrissey. Among Marshall's observations that are relevant to other would-be news entrepreneurs:

  • Small, independent news sites cannot rely on scale to drive revenue. They need a strong relationship with their users. Many digital media organizations that have massive audiences will not be able to make the transition to paid subscriptions because they don't have that relationship, he believes.
  • Many of the 26,000 paid subscribers to TPM, which are now supplying just over half the site's revenue, pay because they support the mission of the publication, which "draws on readers' knowledge to break stories." The sales pitch for the $50 Prime product is that you get "warm, fuzzy feelings from supporting independent journalism".