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ProPublica’s new “50 states” commitment builds on a decade-plus of local news partnerships
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April 6, 2023, 12:51 p.m.
Audience & Social
LINK: www.inma.org  ➚   |   Posted by: Laura Hazard Owen   |   April 6, 2023

In some online mom groups recently, I’ve seen people ask other members if they can “share a gift link.” Twitter is filled with people “gifting” articles they think are important. The evidence is anecdotal, but it suggets the concept of giving paywalled articles to family members or friends (or your whole feed, although you are technically not supposed to do that) is actually resonating with paying readers.

New data from Hearst Newspapers bears this out. Writing for INMA, Hearst Newspapers’ Ryan Nakashima notes:

In the past couple of years, several newspaper publications with paywalls have given subscribers a new benefit: They allowed them to share articles with friends and family for free. At Hearst Newspapers, we added a second wrinkle: requiring anonymous gift recipients to register an e-mail address to redeem the article view.

The New York Times and Washington Post both also allow article-gifting, but they don’t require recipients to share their email addresses. (Other publications I found that have the feature: Bloomberg.com, the Financial Times, The Economist, and the Portland Press-Herald.) For Hearst, though, prompting for an email worked well enough that it’s expanding the experiment from HoustonChronicle.com to its other largest papers — SFChronicle.com in San Francisco; ExpressNews.com in San Antonio, and TimesUnion.com in Albany — with more papers planned.

It’s something readers really wanted, Nakashima writes:

In a survey of our subscribers last March, the ability to share articles with friends or family was the most requested feature benefit. And when we sent an e-mail to subscribers touting its availability, more than 50% read the e-mail, an astonishingly high read rate for any e-mail campaign.

The second element of our feature was just as exciting. When gift recipients went to view the article sent by their friend or significant other, about 20% provided an e-mail address when asked.

That is more than triple the e-mail provision rate when we tested imposing a registration step on visitors who have exceeded their monthly allotment of free article views.

More here.

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