Q&A: Applying to the Joint Membership & Marketing Pilot Project

Following our announcement last week of an open call to Colorado newsrooms to join us in a joint marketing and membership pilot project, on June 5 Colorado Media Project hosted a webinar to present more information and answer questions for newsrooms about this opportunity. Our slide deck is available here for your review. Below, we’ve paraphrased key moments from the Q&A portion of our discussion. Remember: applications are due on Monday, June 17, at 11:59 p,m. Questions? Email us at info@coloradomediaproject.com.

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Has this been done somewhere else? Can you give an example of what this will look like?

To our knowledge, a project exactly like this has not been tried before–although there have been some experiments that have come close, like this one by a group of Philadelphia newsrooms in 2018. However, there are many news publications that run successful membership programs, such as the Texas Tribune, and numerous examples from other industries or groups of groups joining together in marketing efforts – famously, Colorado’s own Epic and Ikon Passes, where one pass buys access to several ski mountains.

We’re excited to have both the financial support of the Membership Puzzle Project and its expertise on memberships in news and examples from outside of news — we’re planning to draw on that heavily. We’ll take lessons from these real-world examples to our Colorado newsroom partnership, with the goal of developing a model that benefits both the news organizations involved and the broader field. For example, the Membership Puzzle Project makes a distinction between membership and subscription models. Memberships tend to be less transactional, and more about being a part of a community and supporting a greater cause. The way public media has been able to galvanize community support is a great way to think about this – people don’t pay for the content story by story: they support the whole effort.

That said, this project is an experiment. We’re going to learn a lot as we go, and its ultimate structure will be co-created by the participants. We’ll keep our goals in mind, and test along the way. The key question: through collaboration, can we create a sum greater than its parts.

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How does membership revenue generated through the project get shared among participants?

Revenue sharing is likely to be the most complex component of the project. Before we get to that step, we’ll likely work first on finding messages that resonate with Colorado communities: how can we encourage them to support local news overall, the way they root for all Colorado sports teams, or support local arts and cultural organizations? However, the ultimate goal is to find ways to both increase engagement with communities and increased revenue for participating newsrooms.

How will applicants be evaluated?

The application was designed with convenience in mind. You can submit online via our Google form. All the answers are capped at 200 words. We ask some general background information about your organization, but you aren’t asked to provide sensitive information. What we’re especially curious about is how your newsroom has approached community engagement. We’re also emphasizing diversity, equity and inclusion, both in terms of newsroom staff and audience demographics.

If you have any questions about how to apply, don’t hesitate to reach out to us via email, info@coloradomediaproject.com.

What is the time commitment required of participants?  

Applicants will be notified of their acceptance no later than July 2, at which point we’ll schedule a kickoff meeting for the five chosen organizations. From there, we’ll begin a summer sprint, during which five newsroom representatives will establish a meeting cadence that works with their schedules, likely either weekly or biweekly. Those meetings will require a total of four to five hours per month. There will be some homework between meetings as well.

What we’re asking of participants is more than just a commitment of time. More important is a commitment of creativity and collaboration. The more you can give, the more successful this project will be. No one has the answers, but collectively, we can come up with something exciting.

Is there a way to attend meetings or participate in some way without applying or being a part of the cohort?

Yes. there will be opportunities to get involved. Please stay tuned for specifics. Also, if your newsroom applies but is not accepted, there will be ample future opportunities to work with the Colorado Media Project. For example, coming up this fall, we’re co-hosting a Migrahack with the University of Denver, where journalists will have the opportunity to convene with other experts from a wide range of fields to explore solutions for improving public understanding of immigration issues.

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Joint marketing and membership pilot

Membership Puzzle Project