Reader donations for print

Music magazine Paste asked readers to help it out of its money troubles. The print magazine needed $300,000. After ten days it collected $175,000 in reader donations.

Some public broadcasting radio and TV stations raise money through donations — mainly in the US.

Can this model work for print?

The answer is, in a way it already does. Print magazines already earn revenue from copy and subscription sales. If there’s less advertising, the cover price is higher.

Many publications already carry no advertising and just make money from copy or subscription payments.

New Zealand’s Consumer Institute magazine Consumer doesn’t carry advertising. The same applies to Choice in Australia and similar titles elsewhere in the world.

This means the magazine’s readers know its articles are written without any pressure from advertisers.

It can a good business model for publishers. Subscription revenue is more reliable than advertising and you get it before paying for publishing costs. I think we’ll see more subscription-driven print titles in the future.

3 thoughts on “Reader donations for print

  1. The reader donation model can work, but not, I suspect, for print. It’s a web model – stick a donate button on your site linked to Paypal or similar and let people do it on impulse. Having to go through any more lengthy response mechanism – such as phoning, writing a cheque or going online if you’re not there already – will drastically reduce donations. And as a web site tends to have lower physical running costs, a little money can go further to keeping it going.

    Also, I don’t think it would work as a basis for covering a publication’s everyday and ongoing running costs. You need regular guaranteed income for that, and that means regular purchase or subscription. Which is the problem in the first place.

    Where reader donation works is as a reward for special content or charitable giving. Blogger John Scalzi (www.whatever.scalzi.com) gets a good response when he asks for money – he does it either for a good cause (to raise money for a fellow writer in dire straits, for example), or to get payment for his freely posted science fiction stories.

    And just because one magazine pulls it off, I don’t think it’s sustainable over the whole industry. One magazine is a novelty, but people will quickly get donation fatigue if it becomes standard practice.

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