Luminate, Media Development Investment Fund (MDIF) and the team of Membership Puzzle Project (MPP) today announced a new $400,000 Membership in News Fund to spur innovative work in the use of membership models for the support of public service journalism. They also announced that the institutional home of MPP will shift from New York University (NYU) to MDIF in September 2020.
Under its new MDIF home, MPP will continue research and knowledge-sharing role and will operate the Membership in News Fund through August 2021. Luminate, which has helped fund the Membership Puzzle Project since 2017, including an earlier iteration of the Membership in News Fund, will provide funding for the Project for another year.
The Membership in News Fund will provide grants and know-how to independent media seeking to implement membership models in countries in Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America, particularly those where Luminate and MDIF have on-the-ground expertise, including Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Georgia, Ukraine, Poland, India, and Myanmar.
Jay Rosen, journalism professor at NYU and the director of Membership Puzzle Project, said: "Advertising continues to shift to the tech platforms. Government funding is looking riskier than ever. Digital paywalls shut a lot of people out. Membership relies on voluntary support from those who see public interest journalism as a cause worth supporting. We think there's potential there. That's why we launched MPP in 2017, and that's why we're grateful to Luminate for backing our cause."
Ariel Zirulnick, director of the Membership in News Fund, said: "We're excited to bring together MDIF's deep expertise in these regions with what we've learned from more than three years of catalyzing and studying membership models in news. The result will be more tailored insights and advice that we hope will spur greater experimentation and progress with membership and audience engagement in Eastern Europe, Latin America, Asia, and Africa."
MDIF CEO Harlan Mandel said: "As media around the world continue to provide crucial information to their audiences, sustainable business models are critical to their future and the communities they serve. MDIF is proud to work with Luminate and the Membership Puzzle Project team, whose research, experience, and assistance provides media with valuable insights into the strategies and discipline required to fully engage reader support. Today's economic challenges require the ability to adapt, diversify revenue sources and, most-importantly, build meaningful relationships with those who consume news and information. These efforts align with MDIF’s mission. Our team will be part of this effort in furthering the Membership in News Fund’s reach, impact, and collaborative approach.
Nishant Lalwani, managing director of Luminate, said: “Since Luminate began supporting the Membership Puzzle Project in 2017, the organization has been a leader in identifying and advising membership models around the world. We’re pleased to renew our support as they continue the important work of funding experimentation with membership and audience engagement and sharing learnings back to the sector.”
About the Membership Puzzle Project
Founded in 2017, the Membership Puzzle Project:
- Collects what is already known about making membership work for journalism by seeking out the people who have deep experience with membership models (including members themselves).
- Researches all the ways that community members can contribute, not just their money, but their knowledge and expertise.
- Funds innovative membership models that are being tested at news sites as part of a global experiment to identify best practices for sustaining independent journalism in the 21st Century.
- Synthesizes the key membership lessons learned by journalism organizations around the world.
Media Development Investment Fund is a not-for-profit investment fund based in New York, United States. It provides debt and equity financing supported by technical assistance to independent media companies in countries where access to free and independent media is under threat. With more than $105 million assets under management, since 1996 MDIF has invested more than $230 million in 120 independent media businesses in 42 countries. Its investments help independent media around the world provide the news, information and debate that people need to build free, thriving societies.
Luminate is a global philanthropic organisation focused on empowering people and institutions to work together to build just and fair societies. It supports innovative and courageous organisations and entrepreneurs around the world, and advocates for the policies and actions that will drive change across four impact areas: Civic Empowerment, Data & Digital Rights, Financial Transparency, and Independent Media. Luminate works with its partners to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to participate in and to shape the issues affecting their societies, and to make those in positions of power more responsive and accountable. Luminate was established in 2018 by philanthropists Pierre and Pam Omidyar. The organisation was founded by The Omidyar Group.