Daily Clips: Publishers Seek Reader Payments Without The Pressure Of A Paywall

April 29, 2022

The Lenfest Institute For Journalism To Receive New Funding From Founder

The Lenfest Institute for Journalism will receive a bequest of about $50 million from the estate of H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest, the Institute announced. These resources will be used to help build a viable future for local, public-service journalism in Philadelphia, the state of Pennsylvania, and throughout the country.

In keeping with Mr. Lenfest’s past gifts and intentions, the Institute will use this money to help expand its endowment in service of its mission. That means most of the funds will be invested to produce stable revenue for years to come, rather than being spent in the near-term.

Mr. Lenfest founded the nonprofit Institute in 2016 and donated his ownership of The Philadelphia Inquirer to the Institute. As the non-controlling owner of The Inquirer, the Institute provides targeted grants but does not direct either business or editorial operations.

Mr. Lenfest directed the Institute both to help transform The Inquirer into a sustainable digital news enterprise dedicated to the public interest and to help address the broader challenges of local news. Since then, over 4,000 individual supporters and foundations have donated to the Institute. The Inquirer is now the largest American newspaper under nonprofit ownership, and the beneficiary of more philanthropic support than any other U.S. newspaper.

Publishers Seek Reader Payments Without The Pressure Of A Paywall

Business publisher Quartz has joined the likes of Vox and The Guardian in moving to a membership model, backed by the belief that readers will want to support the missions and journalism of the respective publishers enough to pay them without the pressure of a paywall. And Vice News plans to add a tip jar to gather reader donations this year. But can publishers still grow direct reader revenue without a paywall?

There’s proof that a membership model can work to bring in direct revenue from readers, which is especially helpful when publishers are hit by shifts in the advertising market. Vox, which launched its contribution program in the spring of 2020 “to mitigate the pandemic’s impact on the advertising business,” has grown its total number of contributors by 40% from March 2021 to March 2022, according to Blair Hickman, executive director of audience strategy at Vox, who declined to say how many unique contributors Vox has or how much those donations amounted to. “It has become clear this has the potential to scale up and become a meaningful part of our business,” Hickman said. Most of Vox’s revenue, however, still comes from advertising.

Elon Musk To Acquire Twitter In $44 Billion Deal

Elon Musk is set to buy Twitter. The social media giant confirmed Monday the Tesla CEO and billionaire will acquire the company in a deal worth $44 billion. Once the deal is complete, which is expected by this year, Twitter will become a privately held company. “Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated,” said Musk in a statement. “I also want to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans.” Shares of Twitter rose more than 5% in afternoon trading Monday. Earlier Monday, Musk said: “I hope that even my worst critics remain on Twitter, because that is what free speech means.”

Last week, Musk said he had lined up $46.5 billion in financing to buy Twitter and had been continuing to negotiate with the company. Musk has criticized how strictly Twitter moderates content on its platform. “Free speech is essential to a functioning democracy. Do you believe Twitter rigorously adheres to this principle?” he tweeted this month.

Musk has scooped up a 9% stake in the company, which made him Twitter’s largest shareholder earlier this month. Twitter responded by announcing plans to have Musk join its board of directors. That deal would have prevented Musk from owning more than 14.9% of Twitter’s outstanding stock for as long as he’s a board member and for 90 days after.

Days later, Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal tweeted that Musk had decided not to join the board. Musk then confirmed, in a regulatory filing, that he planned to acquire the company. “I invested in Twitter as I believe in its potential to be the platform for free speech around the globe, and I believe free speech is a societal imperative for a functioning democracy,” Musk said in the proposal. “However, since making my investment I now realize the company will neither thrive nor serve this societal imperative in its current form. Twitter needs to be transformed as a private company.

Canada Offered A Tax Credit To Encourage Digital News Subscription

Back in 2019, citing the importance of journalism for a healthy democracy, Canada announced a 5-year, $600 million initiative to support the country’s news industry. Some key provisions mirror what’s been proposed in the U.S., including a tax credit on wages and a tax credit to encourage subscriptions. (A related Canadian program that gives grants to news organizations to hire local journalists for underserved communities, known as the Local Journalism Initiative, accounts for a fraction of overall spending at $50 million over five years.)

Under the new tax provisions, Canadians can get reimbursed for 15% of what they spend on digital news subscriptions from outlets designated as “qualified,” up to $500. The digital subscription tax credit is worth a close look because — the thinking goes — it could encourage subscription habits that will allow news organizations to better stand on their own two feet without government assistance.

Indirect help is also often seen as less politically and ethically fraught than more direct assistance. In this case, individuals decide which outlets to support (albeit from a list of outlets pre-approved by the Canadian government) rather than officials choosing an amount of state aid. According to information provided by the Canada Revenue Agency, about 302,000 Canadians filed for the tax credit in 2020. The average tax credit was $36, meaning those who claimed the credit spent an average of $240 on digital subscriptions over the year.

The Philadelphia Inquirer Shares Successful Strategy With Ad-Supported Content Hubs

In the past, The Inquirer had frequent special sections aligned with arts, entertainment, education and lifestyle that was sold by the sales team. These packages were print focused, with a digital add-on. Over the past few years, advertisers showed more interest in digital promotion which was good news for the Inquirer because it would bring print costs down and allow for more in-depth digital content. Turkavage says branded content was the perfect marketing solution to present to advertisers for effective brand messaging. “It was different than a traditional ad, of course, because it educates and informs the reader and it builds trust because you’re aligning yourself with a 192 year old organization,” he said.

He says they use paid social and display ads to drive traffic to the specific branded content article on the digital page section or subdomain where these digital verticals live. Advertisers benefit from paid social media amplification which helps drive traffic to the article. “Newsletter integrations we just started that last year and it’s been great to increase the sale of our average value order, but it also gives them another channel where they can amplify their branded content,” he said.

Daily Clips is a culmination of various articles from an array of news sources on topics spanning from news to tech