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Growing Subscriber Base, Community and Revenue

Moderator: Nadia Antelava

Speakers: Jonathan Hoffmann, Patricia Torres-Burd

December 8th, 2020, 15:30-16:05 CET

Written by Tom Dautzenberg

Keywords: Syndication, Revenue, Audience Satisfaction, Innovation, COVID-19


Media organisations are finding themselves in increasingly fragile financial positions in a digitalised world which has been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis. During this session, Jonathan Hoffman, COO at Project Syndicate, and Patricia Torres-Burd, Managing Director of Media Advisory Services for MDIF shared their views on growing subscriber bases and revenue and on how to build up and maintain a strong relationship with audiences.

Project or approach to be discussed in this session

  • According to Hoffmann, the key reason for Project Syndicate’s success was to achieve something that was not commercially oriented.

  • In order to remain at the forefront of syndication, it is essential to create and maintain engagement with your audience.

  • Diversifying your income generation starts with meeting partners and your audience in order to find out and recognise their needs.

Evidence of impact

During the session, Jonathan Hoffman announced that Project Syndicate had just passed 10,000 subscribers, three years after commencing with its subscription program. Even though this is a remarkable milestone, Torres-Burd also highlighted the fact that this proves that it is a major challenge for online news outlets to reach sufficient numbers of subscribers.

Limitations, risks of the approach provided by the speaker

With limited revenue options and advertising income falling, for-profit media are facing major challenges in generating income. Hoffmann stressed that there is not one size fits all solution. “We have the benefit of having access to editors of newspapers from all over the world, we can get a sense of what people are doing that works, and I don’t think there is anybody who would tell you that they have it figured out.”

Takeaways (no explicit takeaways were mentioned, but these were the main points of the discussion)

1. We are bombarded with news on the internet, so in order to stand out as an online news outlet it is necessary to establish a relationship with the audience. (Torres-Burd)

2. We are competing for very scarce resources and as we are trying to work as an organisation, our opportunities are very limited. By meeting with their partners and audience, news outlets can diversify their income. (Hoffmann)

3. When considering diversifying, it is important to keep in mind and recognize what you should and should not do as an organization. Acknowledge your weaknesses and work together with other organizations to make these your strengths.


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