The Guardian is the pioneer of the voluntary membership model; a way to not wall off its journalism, but allow readers to support the publication if they wanted to. That business model has been hugely successful, having hit the 1m digital subscription milestone at the end of last year, six years on from launching it.
Tech and media journalist Simon Owens reflects on the lessons to be learned from this approach, writing on his Substack newsletter. The Guardian uses several techniques to encourage the reader to pay.
Anyone who has visited the website more than once will know the website tracks how many stories you have read for free - and makes a point of telling you too. Owens says that this "article meter" is a clever and subtle way to nudge readers to pay.
"I think most people do a bad job of estimating how much media they consume. The Guardian’s article meter serves as a gentle, prodding reminder that the reader actually is receiving value from the outlet. I can imagine that the higher the meter gets, the more obligated the person feels to finally take out their wallet and donate."
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