Last week, TownNews released a new feature that makes it easy for site visitors to make direct monetary contributions in support of their local media outlets. The results have been encouraging . . . In just a few short days, nearly 150 sites have signed up, with 56 already live and accepting meaningful contributions from grateful visitors.
The program launches as news organizations nationwide struggle to keep revenue flowing in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Newspapers are facing steep advertising losses both in-paper (ROP) and preprint inserts. Broadcasters are seeing declines in spot advertising, especially from local small businesses.
"I deeply appreciate TownNews' proactiveness in helping my newspaper quickly engage readers who value community journalism," said Steve Stewart, vice president at Boone Newspapers. "Since the coronavirus pandemic began crippling the local economy and, by extension, our advertising revenue, loyal readers had been reaching out to say, 'How can we help?'"
The feature also aims to help news organizations who offer subscriptions convert more visitors to paying members. When applicable, users are given the choice of signing up for a subscription/membership or making a monetary contribution.
A few examples of the ways TownNews customers are soliciting direct contributions from readers using the new "Support Local Journalism" program.
"Thanks to TownNews, we were able to quickly activate and market a premium subscription option and a voluntary contribution option," Stewart said. "Revenue is already flowing via both options and will be critical going forward as we continue to keep our community informed."
"As the majority local media organizations across the TownNews network have either opened or loosened their paywalls to coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic, the TownNews team wanted to provide an alternative for them to accept contributions alongside the purchase of a digital membership," said Rick Rogers, Chief Revenue Officer at TownNews.
The program isn't just working for groups like Boone; independent news organizations are also reaping the benefits.
"The donation program has exceeded my expectations—we started receiving donations almost as soon as TownNews notified me that the program had been set up," said Jesús Sanchez, Publisher of The Eastsider, an independent neighborhood news blog based in L.A. "We received about $1,000 in the first two days—which is a lot for us and comes as our banner ad and sponsored post sales have come to a virtual standstill."
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COVID-19 has impacted the news industry more rapidly than most could have predicted, but the TownNews team fast-tracked the Support Local Journalism feature to supply some much-needed relief.
"In just 48 hours, the product and development teams at TownNews put together this Support Local Journalism contribution page that can be used by our partners," Rogers said.
"At a time when local advertising is experiencing declines, support from readers who are turning to their local media source is vital."