Over the past several years there’s been a shift in the media industry. Let's call it the rise of the paywall. 💸
As publishers both large and small struggled to generate ad revenue, the collective media industry moved towards a more direct financial relationship between publications and readers with subscriptions. 👀
It turns out people will actually pay for news. The New York Times has about 3 million paying readers. The Athletic, a subscription publication for sports news, reportedly has over 100,000 subscribers (and received $20M in funding earlier this year). Investigative tech news site The Information is well-known in Silicon Valley, with subscribers paying $399 for an annual subscription. Even Medium is pushing towards a subscription-based model after taking a dramatic left turn away from the ad business last year. Now, their subscriber base has reportedly grown by 160 percent.
Several startups have also cropped up to help anyone create paywalled content. Substack (a YC-backed company led by the former CTO of Kik) makes it super simple to create paid email newsletters. Revue is an easy-to-use publishing platform for email that also lets you charge subscribers.
Now, a new publication is challenging the paywall, with a mission to make the news accessible to anyone — regardless of price point.
Earlier this week, The Correspondent launched in the U.S. with an entirely new vision for the media industry: a member-funded, free to access, ad-free platform on a mission to “unbreak the news.” 🗞
The Correspondent is an offshoot of “De Correspondent,” a Dutch startup that uses a choose-what-you-pay membership model for a year's worth of access to its news. De Correspondent already has 60,000 subscribers in the Netherlands.
“At The Correspondent, we actually make a difference between subscription and membership. In our view, subscribing is: paying money to get a product, and membership is: paying money to join a cause,” — The Correspondent Founder and Editor Rob Wijnberg wrote on Product Hunt
Members in this case are a community of readers that The Correspondent views as an untapped resource of knowledge versus a “target audience.”
“We invite them to share that knowledge and experience by having correspondents spend at least 30 to 40 percent of their time interacting with members and readers — not as an “extra”, but as an integral part of her work” — Wijnberg
The news follows two more big name publications — New York Magazine and Quartz — putting up paywalls this week.