Check out a collection of our original research and reporting on sustainable revenue models for journalism, the state of the Philadelphia news ecosystem, best practices for email newsletters, and more.

Smart investments in paid lead acquisition to grow membership (or, spending money to make money)

Can publishers who seek to grow their membership invest in paid lead acquisition tactics and predict with strong confidence the rate of return on their investment? To answer this question, several organizations have worked together– the Membership Puzzle Project, Pico, and the Lenfest Institute for Journalism and researcher Phillip Smith

Read the full report here.

Digital Pay-Meter Playbook

Our research suggests a shift from advertising-based models to digital subscriptions enables news organizations to deliver more reader-relevant content, validate operational models that offer more stable business performance, and free up resources to plan for longer-term investments in content and news quality.

Read the full report here.

Digital Subscription Reader Revenue Benchmarks

As news organizations have been pressed to develop digital subscription and membership models to support themselves, there’s been one question that publisher after publisher asks: How am I doing?

To try and help news organizations answer that question and better understand their audiences, we have assembled data on how more than 500 news organizations have approached their digital subscription businesses.

Compiled by Lenfest Institute Reader Revenue Specialist Matthew Skibinski, the data set is from a wide range of publications with different levels of quality, technological expertise, and marketing effort.

The full data set, here, covers metrics including meter stop rate, subscription conversion rate, subscription retention rate, and more.

Building Subscriptions and Memberships for Quality Journalism: Case studies from The Lenfest Institute for Journalism and Digital Content Next

So far, digital reader revenue results have been mixed. Data show that publishers can convert the most engaged 5-10% of their audience into paying subscribers, but the vast majority of publishers still fall well below this mark. Benchmarks from The Lenfest Institute for Journalism, for example, show a wide range of performance on key benchmarks such as conversion rate, retention rate, and paid users per unique visitor. The most successful publications perform about ten times better on key metrics than publishers at the median levels — and outperform publishers in the 90th percentile by more than 3 times, suggesting that most publications with paid content models still have significant room for improvement.

Read the full report here.

The Newsletter Guide: A 201 guide for taking your newsletters to the next level

Created by The Lenfest Institute, The Shorenstein Center, and Yellow Brim, The Newsletter Guide is a 201-level resource to help news organizations take their newsletter strategy to the next level. Why are newsletters important? They’re ideal for reaching readers directly and for building regular engagement habits. Most of us live on our smartphones these days, and newsletters are the preferred mobile-first platform for offering readers unique coverage they can easily access during their commutes, in line at the coffee shop, and at home on the couch.

Read the guide and access free, open-source newsletter templates here.

Being Informed: A Study of the Information Needs and Habits of Philadelphia residents

This study — written by Michael X Delli Carpini, Mariela Morales Suárez and Burt Herman — examines a small sample of Philadelphia residents and identifies significant news consumption trends that cut across all ages, races and socioeconomic backgrounds. The findings may debunk some assumptions about Philadelphians’ news needs, and offers insights into the waning trust consumers place in regional media.

Read the full report here.

Business Models for Local News: A Field Scan

On May 18, 2018, the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and The Lenfest Institute for Journalism gathered industry leaders from news organizations, platforms, and philanthropic sectors to discuss prospects for finding and seeding new business models for local journalism—and how best to support those working in communities across the country to facilitate change. (See Appendix II for a full list of participants). The conversation was energized and, ultimately, optimistic.

The gathering identified five principle needs and opportunities for the revitalization of local news:

  1. Increased financial investment in startups
  2. Growing philanthropic commitments
  3. The need for growth capital for existing organizations
  4. Improved collaboration among both news organizations and platforms
  5. Greater emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion

Read the full report here.