In 2016, The Independent ceased its print subscription model and went online only. Since then, it has given online readers the choice of watching ads for content, registering a free account or subscribing to its Daily Edition app — until recently that is.
Launched in September, Independent Minds is the latest tier in the subscription model and Christian Broughton, editor, The Independent, said it promises a mixed bag of rewards for readers stumping up their cash after reflecting on past models, rather than acting as a strict paywall.
“I think what we’ve learned is that there are different communities of people who want different things,” he said. “We learned not to treat everybody the same, and to listen — the media are very good at talking, it’s also very important to listen.”
Broughton said that because other subscription tiers cater for anyone from casual readers up to regular app users, Independent Minds fills the role for readers who want to invest in taking journalism beyond the article and influencing content — and the ‘loyalty service’ offers this in various ways, such as through event access and exclusive comment sections for readers and writers to debate.
“We’re inviting readers to shape what we do. There’s a section called ‘ask The Independent’ which is an open invitation to throw us a topic: ‘what do you think of women’s retirement age?’ Or, ‘here’s an issue I’ve got which isn’t getting the headlines it deserves’ — and we’ll take a look at it.
Subscribers also get exclusive content through Independent Minds, which Broughton said is designed to be thought-provoking, out of the ordinary, and from unlikely places. One of the examples is a piece that chief sports writer Jonathan Liew wrote on Britney Spears and her hit single anniversary.
“We’re already seeing these fantastic treats of ‘things you wouldn’t expect’ which gives a sense of reward.
“You can find out now any story that is in the obvious top 10 stories of the day, lots of news publishers are going to have a version of that story.
“You have to sometimes go a bit beyond — who is going to give you Robert Fisk writing about the degradation of the English language? These are fascinating things.
"We're still very much on breaking news and what's on Twitter. But it's lovely to have the business excuse to say to your readers: 'this is really fascinating, bear with us, have a look at this' — and that gets squeezed out sometimes in the world of what's ranking on Google or what's trending high on Twitter."
Interested in adapting your news organisation business model? Or are you considering memberships? Both topics are on the agenda for our upcoming Newsrewired conference on 7 November at Reuters, Canary Wharf, London.