Facebook Journalism Program Helps News Publishers Find New Subscribers

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New data from Facebook shows that an initiative aimed at supporting local news publishers is showing early signs of success.

Australian and New Zealand publishers participating in the Facebook Journalism Project’s Reader Revenue Accelerator in 2019 and through 2020 secured more than 24,000 new paying subscribers and more than 160,000 new loyal readers (whether through newsletters, podcasts or site registrations) via initiatives they started or supported with funding from Facebook. Overall, these publishers generated $7 million in lifetime value for their organisations during the course of the program directed by Facebook and its partner, The Walkley Foundation.

“The takeup and response from participants have been extremely positive. The quality and international experience of the coaches in the program with directed training sessions were incredibly valuable for Australian and New Zealand publishers,” said Louisa Graham, chief executive of the Walkley Foundation. “This has been a successful and worthwhile initiative by Facebook.”

Facing unique business challenges in 2020, these organisations have held the line, keeping journalists employed during difficult financial times, and in many cases managed to reinvest in their businesses to deliver commercial success despite the hurdles presented by COVID-19.

“The growth in our subscription revenue, in particular, has become a key revenue stream for our company and one that is now pivotal for our company’s long-term stability,” said Vanita Prasad, reader revenue and engagement manager at Newsroom in New Zealand, which increased their donors by more than 150 percent and its paying subscribers by 225 percent during the course of the program. “This funding allowed us to pursue growth initiatives in a time that would otherwise have us looking to cut back.“

Eight news publishers from Australia and three from New Zealand joined the Accelerator program in October 2019. Each organisation was provided with three months of intensive coaching from world-class experts led by former Dow Jones marketing executive Lynne Brennen, former Financial Times marketing leader Joss Cripps and former New York Times and Washington Post audience development leader Justin Bank. The program included three in-person training sessions in Sydney followed by funding to enable reader revenue initiatives. This funding was increased at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic to help the publishers continue to grow their businesses during tumultuous times.

“The Accelerator program was fantastic,” said Jane Mahoney, associate publisher at Crikey. “It really changed the way we think about our subscription business as a whole and increased our depth of understanding around our product and the wider industry.”

To help other publishers looking to improve their reader revenue strategies, Facebook presents some of the program’s major success stories for inspiration below.

“The training, confidence and funding these Accelerator publishers received was delivered just in time to support their successful and nimble pivots in response to a global pandemic,” said Brennen. “Given all that our teams accomplished in a year of unprecedented pandemic challenges, I’m eager to see how this community continues to accelerate and thrive in 2021.”

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