The Guardian succeeds using “carrot not stick”; new approach to journalism

Some years ago, while researching direct mail, I was intrigued to learn that long letters often yield better results than short ones. People wanted details. They liked learning the background of the cause – sounds strange but the stats backed this up.

new approach to journalism

The Guardian takes new approach to journalism

I just read about another of these counter-intuitive examples. Last year Britain’s Guardian newspaper took a new approach to journalism. They began inserting a longer-then-usual “ask” at the end of some stories. As a result they more than doubled their memberships – and therefore revenues.

The approach, according to a story in Neiman Labs, was an “emotion, service-based request” based on good journalism – no traveler mug or shopping bag incentives on offer here.

The news organization has suffered, along with others in their sector, from the general decline in traditional news consumption and the “internet effect” on ad revenues.

Rather than instituting a paywall, which management felt discouraged consumption – users paid more if they consumed more – they offered memberships.

Using their Panama Papers investigation as what they termed “a carrot and not a stick” they demonstrated their brand of thorough investigation and reporting then asked readers to join if they valued the resulting work.

Said a paragraph at the end of each story: “If everyone who reads our reporting, who likes it, helps fund it, our future would be much more secure. For as little as $1 you can support The Guardian – and it only takes a minute.” Donation links followed.

Sure enough, memberships increased after reporting on Brexit, the environment and the UK election.

This time last year subscriptions, memberships, one-time donations and newsstand sales delivered more revenue than ads.

“We now receive more income from our readers than we do from our advertisers,” reported the editor-in-chief. Quite a feat!

I receive an excellent summary of Guardian stories daily and have more than once been moved to contribute. It’s encouraging to see how well this model is working for them.

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