In the past year, The Guardian’s paid member base went from 50,000 to 200,000 — an incredible increase in any industry. Its membership program was introduced in 2014; although it got off to a slow start, ramped up promotions in July 2016 brought in a flood of eager members and inspired The Guardian to aim for a new goal of 1 million.

How did The Guardian attract new members?

From the start, The Guardian has emphasized the importance of supporting quality journalism, a strategy that’s worked to bring in members whose values are in sync with The Guardian’s goals. Managing director David Magliano confirmed that paid members don’t receive any special content as part of their membership.

The Guardian alerted readers to the membership option with brief messages placed on its site; intensive testing was performed to fine-tune the placement and content. Thirty messages were tested; some were placed at the bottom of articles, and others were positioned as pop-up ads displayed to visitors with ad blockers on. Links to stories were also used to entice potential subscribers.

In addition, social media outlets were used to advertise the membership program. As SODP recently reported, a large number of media brands are developing a strong social media presence in an attempt to leverage the massive number of young users.

Benefits for paid subscribers

According to Natalie Hanman, executive editor of membership at The Guardian, American readers appreciate the brand’s liberal perspective and global outlook. While the desire to support open journalism may drive some readers to pay for a membership, other perks include discounts on events and priority booking services, depending on membership level.

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The program has three options: $6.32 for supporters, $19 for partners and $76 for patrons. The Guardian has yet to reveal the ratio of paid members in each tier.

What’s next for The Guardian’s paid membership program?

The Guardian is expanding its coverage of stories deemed “underreported” in order to deepen relationships with readers in the United States and the United Kingdom. In addition, the outlet will continue asking readers which topics are most important to them. Although the goal is to boost flagging revenue, the program may also help content quality at The Guardian remain high.

What do you think about The Guardian’s membership program? Are paid memberships the future of digital publishing?

Share your views in the comments section below. Or if you have a news story or tip-off, drop us a line at vahe@stateofdigitalpublishing.com.

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