Explaining why What’sUpNewp has, and needs, Members (and why we “charge” for a newsletter)

We’ve been getting a lot of questions about why we have a voluntary membership program, called What’sUpNewp Members, and why we have a newsletter that not everyone can get for free. Let us try to explain…

Let us tell you why we need members and supporters (why we have a newsletter “that costs money”);

What’s Up Newp has been keeping people who live in Newport, and people who love Newport informed, on what’s happening, new, and to do in The-City-By-The-Sea since March 2012. We are locally-owned, independent, and only funded by the revenue that we bring in from our local advertisers, our local events, and our members (ok, also occasionally from what our owner can scratch together thru side jobs).

After nearly eight years in operation, it’s become clear to us that internet advertising — which is priced at a fraction of what print publications charge for their inventory — alone will not produce enough revenue for us to continue to staff our business for many more years to come in a sustainable way if we don’t diversify our revenue streams.

Events (which we do), Subscriptions and paywalls (which we will not do), and memberships need to be added to grow what we (and other digital news publishers) are doing to help us grow and operate in a sustainable way – and most importantly to keep us alive.

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That’s why we announced a voluntary membership in April 2018. To say that it was a difficult decision would be quite the understatement. We are all too aware that, after more than six years (at that time) of readers being trained to expect everything to be free from us, the idea of ponying up for a membership wouldn’t be palatable to many — even some people who use our site frequently.

Our very affordable membership that provides a great benefit (the “Good Morning, Newsletter” delivered to your inbox daily), with the greatest benefit being your support of a locally owned and independent quality news outlet.

And it costs just $5 per month, that’s just $1.25 per week to help to not only maintain the vibrancy of WhatsUpNewp as a significant and reliable source for news about Newport, Rhode Island specifically, and Rhode Island generally, but to help us expand our in-depth coverage of significant news events in our community and throughout the area.

As we’ve mentioned, the decision to start a Member Program for the site, shall we say, was not easy. It was, in fact, one of the most nerve-wracking choices we’ve ever made.

But less than two years into this, however, it’s looking increasingly like it was the right move — and one that sets up a promising future for what we do (and what we’re hoping to do) here in Newport County and across Rhode Island.

We have had friends, neighbors, avid readers, part-time residents, full-time residents, and folk who live all around the country (that love keeping up with Newport) become members. We’re not far from hitting our ambitious 2019 membership goal that we set for ourselves, which is incredible.

Obviously, it’s nice to know so many people out there value the site enough to have hopped on board and believe in us. But I have to say the most unexpected — and welcome — thing about our membership program is how it quickly and clearly it has realigned our incentives in putting together our email newsletter and content for each day. Or, perhaps more precisely, how it has more closely aligned our incentives with those of our readers.

When a publication’s revenue comes solely from advertisers, it is naturally inclined to take an approach that delivers them the most exposure. That is, traffic volume becomes the most important metric, because that’s what gets monetized. That tends to tip the editorial quality vs. quantity scale fairly sharply toward the quantity side. And, whether consciously or not, it’s probably fair to say that’s the approach we’d adopted over the last six years.

But since we’ve announced our membership program, it didn’t taken long to notice a trend: On the days we publish things about local government, original stories, or pieces about what people truly care about; new memberships spike.

Last summer, we hit a big milestone. The amount of revenue that we receive from our membership program exceeded the amount we are paid by our biggest advertiser. Meaning our biggest partner in what we do here, is now our readers.

The fact is, when a community news publication gets a large part of its revenue from its readers, it’s incentive to cover the things that really make a difference to the community — not to just chase the easiest path toward the most page views.

Our goal is to continue to create a publication based on the following values:

  • We believe that an informed community is a stronger community. We want to keep people in the know of what’s happening, new, and to do in Newport County and across Rhode Island. From what local elected officials are doing and why they are doing it, to what’s happening with nonprofits, businesses, events, and the people who live here. Our goal is to provide people who live in Newport County and across Rhode Island with a straightforward look at the issues, news, and things that affect their everyday life.
  • We believe in Newport and Rhode Island. One of the things that makes a community a community is a shared sense of pride — about the life it provides its residents, about the initiatives it undertakes, about the accomplishments of its citizens, and about the people and businesses that choose to plant their roots here. We want What’sUpNewp to help foster the social capital that makes Newport County and Rhode Island a great place to live and raise a family.

Many of you appear to agree with those beliefs strongly enough that you’ve made an investment in our continued ability to bring you truly local coverage by becoming a member. If you share those values but have not become a member yet, we hope you’ll consider doing so today.

We hope, with your support, to be able to engage well-qualified journalists to help us cover the news, investigate questionable practices, and serve as your watchdog, while still providing the kind of lifestyle reporting you’ve come to expect from our website.

Let there be no confusion about it, our website and its content will always be free to all. We do not have a subscription. We do not have a paywall. We simply reward our supporters and members, with a pretty awesome email newsletter.

Think about how we have become a part of your daily routine over the last 7+ years, and when considering whether to support us by becoming a What’s Up Newp Member – think about what it would be like without us around.

Please accept our sincerest thanks for your time, support, and readership over the last seven years. We hope you continue to support our advertisers, share our stories, provide us with feedback, and take this journey with us.

Got any questions? Feel free to reach out to our Ryan Belmore, our Owner, Editor, and Publisher, at Ryan@whatsupnewp.com.

Thank you for your support,

~ The What’s Up Newp Crew

PS – For those of you who are still not sure why you would ever have to pay for anything from a local news website (news online is free, right?), I’d encourage you to give this analysis a read

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Our content is free and always will be – but we rely on your support to sustain it.  Become  A What’sUpNewp  Member