Membership

From Zero to $100K: PolitiFact's Membership Program Gets Started, Fast

By / Feb 7, 2017 (PolitiFact screenshot)

The fact-checking website PolitiFact, riding the recent tide of support for media outlets focused on accuracy, launched a membership program last month. The program is already showing some major success.

Donald Trump’s recent election has put more attention than ever on the organizations dedicated to reporting the news and fact-checking the claims of public figures.

Sometimes, that means Meryl Streep giving a shout-out to the Committee to Protect Journalists; other times, it means a spontaneous campaign to encourage people to pay money for the newspapers they read.

In the case of PolitiFact, the fact-checking offshoot of the Tampa Bay Times, it means starting a membership program at just the right time. Last month, the Pulitzer Prize-winning website announced its first-ever membership program, complete with different tiers of perks for supporters and superfans alike.

The organization, which announced the “Truth Squad” endeavor during the week of the election, teamed with a group of nonprofit news organizations to come up with the membership strategy, an endeavor called the News Revenue Hub.

“We hope reader contributions will help us as we work to find a financially sustainable model for public accountability journalism in the 21st century,” PolitiFact Editor Angie Drobnic Holan and Executive Director Aaron Sharockman wrote last month.

Early Success

How’s it going? Well, so far, the website seems to be benefiting from the overall push for more fact-checking.

According to Poynter (the nonprofit that owns the Tampa Bay Times), the website has raised $105,000 in just 20 days—with 611 people donating at least $50 in annual support for the website.

In comments to Poynter’s Alexios Mantzarlis, Sharockman noted that the organization, which isn’t a nonprofit, is benefiting from the current news climate. (The organization raised $3,000 alone during Sean Spicer’s first White House press conference.) Even so, the results could potentially prove lasting for an endeavor that requires a constant stream of revenue to keep fact-checking a never-ending stream of news stories.

“What I’m really excited about is that we’ll have the ability to have a steady way for us to fund our work in a way that ensures we remain independent, nonpartisan and objective,” Sharockman said to the website. “And also in a way that won’t yo-yo with the elections.”

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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