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Clickbait over quality content – that seems to be the mantra for many online media outlets today. This is often driven by their dependence on advertising revenue and the struggle for reach. No wonder audience trust is in decline.

But there are still plenty of people who are dissatisfied with this situation and seek out high-quality content online – thoroughly researched stories, captivating conversations and well-executed entertainment.

And it's those people who form loyal communities around independent publishers. By "independent publishers" we mean the journalists, podcasters, bloggers and Youtubers who deliver authentic, high-quality online content rather than simply chasing clicks.

However, these publishers often have a problem: they don't know how to generate regular income from their projects. They struggle to keep their projects afloat and pay their designers, photographers and other colleagues.

This is where memberships come in. A membership model allows publishers to earn sustainable support from their community. As it turns out, the people who appreciate the work of these publishers are often willing to pay money to show their support.

The key to independence: The power of community

As with a subscription, members support a publication by paying a regular, recurring sum. But while subscribers might pay to receive a print copy or digital access to a newspaper, memberships are not simply about purchasing a product.

What makes memberships different is the close relationship that develops between the publisher and the community. This is what members value and pay for. In other words, if you become a subscriber, you have to pay, but if you become a member of a publication, you want to pay. The motivation is fundamentally different.

But memberships also differ from donations and crowdfunding. In contrast to these models, members don’t just help out once, but provide sustainable support.

At the same time, publishers can also offer their members benefits, to thank them for their support. This might be a shoutout in a podcast, a personalised postcard or access to exclusive articles, videos or podcast episodes. At Steady, we've found that in many cases, members aren’t paying for what they will get in return – instead, they are primarily motivated by enabling the publishers they value to get on with their work.

The following chart illustrates the difference between four types of business models: subscriptions, ads, donations and memberships. The combination of personal connection, benefits and a focus on community are what make memberships so special:

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It is only logical for publishers to ask their community for support, as they are invested in the project’s longevity, too.

Do you have a blog, podcast, Youtube channel or other project? With Steady you can mobilize your community and offer memberships. It's easy to set up and registration is completely free.

Not sure if your community would support you? Why don't you ask them? It's always a good idea to start a conversation with your community!

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