Using research conducted on independent news supporters, the Membership Puzzle Project produced a set of design principles for those making news media with the public interest in mind.
In the Membership Puzzle Project’s first year, we interviewed more than 200 people who support independent news with their time, ideas, expertise, and money. Most commonly their contributions are financial, which is highly valuable as advertising revenue declines and the costs of reporting news rise. Some people pay in other ways. We talked to supporters who serve as comment moderators, event participants and volunteers, fact checkers, volunteer graphic designers and audio editors, sources, grammarians, contributors of code, product testers, and more.
Beginning from the highly generative question around “what drives you mad?” our research team can then learn what stands out in the sites that individuals back financially and beyond. While there are local differences, there are highly consistent themes in what we’ve learned from supporters across countries and organization type ranging from traditional subscription-based publishers like Outside Magazine to member-driven, born-digital newsrooms like De Correspondent and The Texas Tribune.