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The Keyword

Google News Initiative

A new way publishers can stay financially sustainable

The news landscape is undergoing a constant state of change, resulting in closures and consolidations of existing players and the emergence of hundreds of mission-driven new enterprises. Many of these early-stage digital newsrooms are resource-strapped, especially when it comes to technology and product development. With support from the Google News Initiative, the News Revenue Hub aims to correct this.

The nonprofit organization is building a team of engineers, product specialists and data scientists to fill gaps and spark growth and sustainability in newsrooms, assembling a first-of-its kind technology team dedicated to meeting the needs of next-generation digital newsrooms.

As a nonprofit providing critical infrastructure and consulting service to newsrooms, the News Revenue Hub has helped more than 70 local, regional and national organizations crowdfund over $42 million since 2016. Last year, Hub newsrooms averaged a 55% increase in member revenue and a 23% increase in email subscribers.

The first product this new GNI-backed team is building will be a streamlined, simple-to use contribution management system called the News Revenue Engine. This product, set to be released in early 2022, will make it easier than ever for mission-driven digital news outlets to steward and convert casual readers into sustaining donors.

A screengrab of the page editing interface, showing a City Limits fundraising webpage.

An example of the page editing interface.

There are several ways The News Revenue Engine will be a direct advantage for newsrooms:

  • The platform will integrate Stripe and Mailchimp, giving newsrooms sophisticated tools to raise revenue and sync data with email marketing systems, to set up automated campaigns and split audiences into different groups for targeted appeals.
  • It will also integrate with Salesforce, but this will not be required.
  • It will provide more payment options through integrations with Google Pay, Apple Pay, Microsoft Pay and Automated Clearing House (ACH)/direct debit.
  • It will delegate more control to membership managers so they can create fundraising pages, view reports against Hub client benchmarks and manage payments.
  • Contributors will have the ability to manage payments, generate tax receipts, and more. It will also streamline the onboarding process for Hub clients, allowing them to spin up and start raising money within days
  • The News Revenue Engine will support internationalization, making it easier for contributors to see fundraising pages in their native languages.
  • Data portability: organizations who use the News Revenue Engine will own their data and have the right to transfer it to other services.

Pilot participation will begin in mid-October with 11 digital newsrooms from across the United States, including Canopy Atlanta, Capital B, Detour Detroit, El Paso Matters, El Timpano, Fostering Media Connection, India Currents, Outlier Media, Southerly, The Current and The Objective.

One of the key reasons the Hub is building the News Revenue Engine is to cover more newsrooms, especially those serving communities of color and those in the early stages of development. The Hub’s most diverse class yet, the News Revenue Engine pilot includes 45% Black, Indigenous, and People of Color-led organizations; 45% that serve BIPOC audiences; and 63% are startups that have been in business for five years or less.

News Revenue Hub is invested in the success of each of these newsrooms. As part of this pilot, the Hub will provide free fundraising training, audience development consulting and support for these organizations’ crucial end-of-year fundraising efforts. The Google News Initiative is a key partner in this effort, helping expand access to these products and services. This announcement is the latest in a long-standing partnership with News Revenue Hub that includes developing and delivering two rounds of the GNI Audience Lab worldwide and the GNI Contributions Lab in Canada and Latin America.

As part of our commitment to transparency, the News Revenue Engine technology is being developed publicly and released as open-source software. The News Revenue Hub will chronicle the process with the pilot organizations, spotlighting lessons learned and the impact it’s making.

To follow the progress, subscribe to the Hub’s newsletter.

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