Public interest journalism funded by the public

Here’s our first poll. What would you pay for a basic membership?


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Author: Bernard Hickey

I'm Bernard Hickey. I'm a financial journalist who has worked for wire services, for newspapers and for online publishers. Until January 2008 I was the Head of Digital at Fairfax Media in New Zealand. I have previously been the Managing Editor of the Independent Financial Review, the BusinessDay editor for the Dominion Post and the founding editor of I love the business of publishing online, both from an editorial and commercial point of view. I'm currently working as the editor of I begin as founding editor of on November 1.

59 thoughts on “Here’s our first poll. What would you pay for a basic membership?

  1. Reblogged this on View of Auckland and commented:
    Seems to be a new “not-for-profit trust dedicated to supporting and building public interest news, analysis, comment and debate.” being founded. Will be keeping an eye on this and see where this goes

  2. yes..totally…I used to have a sub to the NZ Listener, paper, until the right go to it…what was that woman called – Joanne Black..stand price now $4.30….they only published some letters to the editor…go figure…then offered pens for the “best letter”….but this gives me a chance at feedback real time and a community I can talk and identify with. ..same as Listener but with benefits. I just hope no one here thinks that the Book of Genesis is above a Scientology Brochure, or Billy Pillgram was truthful about Tramalfador. Lois Daish she had some good recipes in the Listener though…rubbard relish by daish. Quite happy with 4 bucks week, and we’ll eat dirt frydeys. PEACE

  3. Bernard

    Get creative for goodness sake…

    Yes you will need big donors/events/advertising/sponsorships etc – but the regular cash flow is what survival will be about.

    Can you find a way to get supporters to give you an amount each month on their credit card? Is this possible??? I would talk to charities etc ( may have ideas)… It needs to be easy…

    You want/need recurring monthly cash flow – or you will spend a lot of time selling annual subscriptions and not writing. Get supporters to sign-up to $10/mth – and ask them to forget about it. Give them a tiered option – start at $10/mth, $20/mth, $50/mth up to an amount of their choosing. When you publish something meaningful – or annually – write (email) people asking them to upgrade.

    If your cash burn is $20K a month – 2,000 people (or equivalent) paying $10/mth (EVERY MONTH) is how you will do that. Make signing up easy – and ask at the end of every piece for people to join. When people ask “how can I help” – you ask them to become members paying you whatever they can on their credit card. Ask them to get their friends to do the same “only $10/mth”…

    An army of dedicated Bernard fans ensuring the monthly nut is met – is how you win.

    I did not bother voting in the poll – wrong question…


    • Good points Mark. I agree monthly is the way to go.
      We have a few options in mind. NZ$9/month and NZ$39/mth with differing levels of access and rewards.

  4. Would pay a lot more if you can get a weekly/monthly payment option happening – the sole reason I’ve never paid a cent to Crikey is that they require lump yearly payments.

    • To all
      Great points on monthly payments and making it easy via credit cards.

    • Contrast this with my personal preference to pay annually and by direct credit rather than credit card. Why? I pay all my bills if possible in annual lump sums where possible because… a) you usually get a discount [and so you should], b) you think more carefully about the cost, c) you don’t feed the banks/credit card companies those millions of tiny transaction charges unnecessarily!

      Enough reasons for you to offer an annual subscription? BTW, I had originally a subscription to and stopped it because I felt the value of the content was not worth the cost. Also, there was a rapid increase in regurgitation of mass media drivel without any real critical and knowledgable analysis of said drivel. But I guess you are about to change that… so, count me in for now.

  5. I think the sort of people who have found their way to this site are the type who are prepared to pay, but before you can determine how much, they need to get a feel for content. No one can apply a value assessment to any purchase unless they have an accurate idea of what they’re getting.

    When you stand at a shop and thumb through a magazine, you’re getting a feel for what it’s articles are and whether you’re prepared to pay the cover price for reading them.

    I’m not suggesting I have an answer, but there needs to be a way to replicate that value assessment online before we can answer this poll.

  6. How about an experiment? A site called HumbleBundle ( packages game software and lets the purchasers choose how much they want to pay. Apparently it has proven to be quite successful. Check it out; perhaps something to think about?

    Personally, if the content is well-referenced and critical of our mainstream media, politics, and environmental policy, whilst also including an article and book review/reccomendation section, I’d be willing to pay.

  7. i get 90% of my news on my iphone. small yes. but always with me. Will you be creating an iphone app for your site? I cant find one for scoop which is a real shame so i dont read it. I know there are quite a few people who have similar reliance on the iphone for news. So not sure i would subscribe but i would probably donate something monthly cause I’m a believer.

  8. Where is the $0 option?

    • Stephen
      There won’t be a 0$ option for membership.
      Those who don’t or can’t pay will still be able to read the articles and comments. They just won’t be able to participate in the community in the same way that members do.

  9. I’m with Stephen G above, Bernard, where’s the “I don’t want to pay & struggle to ever seem myself paying but am willing to see adverts on the page” option?

  10. I realise as a professional journalism website you want to keep the quality of writing high, hence having 2-3 journalists on staff.

    I think that the blogosphere is a huge untapped market, with a huge number of people who can write at least half decently who have a wide range of backgrounds with opinions to offer.

    It would great to see you incorporate a community publishing option to the site, of course going through the appropriate editing etc before going live on the site. A good example of this is Energy Bulletin where anyone can publish articles once it has passed a vetting process.

    This may be an affront to traditional journalism, in that a bunch of laymen think they can just jump on the bandwagon that they have journalists have spent many years training and perfecting. But I also think that is part of the reason that you started this site in the first place, that the old traditions of journalism have been crumbling for some time now.

    As long as the quality control is kept high this could be a great way of increasing content for no cost to yourself with perhaps the option of paying writers a small fee as they build up a history with the site and as your readership base grows.

  11. Hi Having a thought about Trademe charging – it’s low for simple services and gets more for the big items. They have free membership but when selling you need to have an amount in credit, you get an automatic reminder when it gets low. If there was a $20 credit to use for purchasing varying services from you, some dearer than others, then after an initial $30 say for membership to allow interactivity, the $20 fund would be there to be used and renewed. Just an idea and how attractive it would be depends on the costs put on the various services.

    • Interesting idea. I’m reluctant to have a micropayment system for reading articles, which discourages people from visiting the site and discourages people sharing such articles across social media and email.

      • I thought that the idea of keeping a permanent credit that got topped up as it diminished because of use would encourage regular readers to drop in to the site, read the general for nothing, after having paid a membership fee, then read summaries of longer more in-depth pieces that would be paid out of the personal credit. These could all be available to the paid-up members and they would be able to circulate them around. Also free content for non-members could be provided. But to read the in-depth stuff, which will cost more to prepare because of the investigative time put in, would come out of the member’s credit. As journalists are saying we need to have more in-depth stuff, then it may need to incur a fee to read in entirety to recognise the extent of the work involved. So paying a small membership fee of $30 for say two years, and then being required to have a credit of say $20 would keep money flowing in. That’s my idea. Having a two-tier system with free options and paid options not a micro system for each visit, or each item, which would discourage. Trademe has a system that works well for them. A different line with different motivations but affordable and interactive.

        On Mon, 27 Aug 2012 12:25:05 +1200,

  12. A mobile/tablet app for professional journalism may represent a significant revenue stream. This could possibly also offer tiered membership options.

    Any pricing for a mobile version I think would need to be lowered what is proposed for the site, a few $ / month. Therefore content would to be more limited than the site – limited articles access and/or comment, etc

    I am not advocating a app-copy of the site, but rather another method to delivery high quality journalism to the masses.

    Perhaps for 2013?

  13. I haven’t seen any app-only paywalls that work. News Corp tried one that is failing. The rest have paywalls across all devices.

  14. Paywalls will work Bernard – but only when the major media players lockdown their internet papers. This is coming soon believe me – in the interim there is time for crowd sourcing and donors to get funds in for an E/iMag. What we need is a viable competitor to present media interests that is affordable and better – not a navel gazing forum for disgruntled journos and retired folk. I have emailed my suggestions to you. Cheers Dave

    • Cheers Dave
      You’re right that it will be more obvious to people what’s happening to journalism when the paywalls go up.
      Thanks for the suggestions.

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