Member-owned newsroom The Bristol Cable has launched a campaign to boost its annual membership income by 50% – or £60,000 – within a year.
The Cable currently has some 2,500 paying members, each of whom own a stake in the publisher.
However, the non-profit co-operative organisation remains 61% grant-funded and now hopes to establish a “long-term sustainable business model” by increasing its membership income.
Bristol Cable refreshes membership scheme
The Cable’s new fundraising campaign is titled “Beyond the Bulls#!t” and involves the introduction of a new membership system encouraging those who can pay more to do so.
Readers can currently pay £1 or more a month to become member-owners at the Cable. However, Bristol Cable strategy lead Eliz Mizon told Press Gazette that a recent consultation found 81% of members were willing to pay £5 or more a month.
She said the discovery prompted the Cable to set “juicy benefits” for those paying £5 or more, including its quarterly print newspaper, weekly email round-up newsletter and event discounts.
“We really want people to understand that if you give £3 a month and then you bumped it up to £5 – if 50% of our members did that, we’d meet our campaign target overnight,” Mizon said. “You can make a huge difference by just giving us £2 more.”
The Cable currently brings in member income of £115,000, 36% of its total revenue, Mizon said.
Although the ultimate goal of the campaign is to raise annual income by £60,000 by September 2024, the publisher hopes to do this in two steps, boosting it by £30,000 before the end of 2023 in part by convincing current members to give more.
As part of this goal, the Cable is introducing a “patron” membership for any contributors willing to give £1,000 a year (or £83 a month). That membership carries no additional formal influence over the co-op, but patrons will receive “some extra merch” and the option to receive an impact report, Mizon said.
“We had a member who’s a fairly wealthy guy, and he was like: ‘Look, I give you £5 a month just because it’s a round number. I could give you thousands of pounds, but you’ve not really given me the incentive to do that. Why are you not asking people who can afford it?’”
Currently, the Cable says the average size of a monthly member contribution is £3. The largest recurring monthly contribution of any member is £25 a month, but three people had signed up to the patron membership at time of writing, providing at least £1,000 a year each.
As well as the relaunch of the member offering, the fundraising campaign will feature an explainer series going behind the scenes and an event series with speakers including former Guardian journalist Gary Younge, Novara Media editor Moya Lothian-McLean and Vogue columnist and author Shon Faye. Mizon said that being “out in the world” with events was one of the main drivers of new memberships for the outlet.
The Bristol Cable publishes most of its content online, where it does not use a paywall, but it also distributes a quarterly print newspaper to venues around Bristol and to members contributing at least £5 a month.
It launched in 2014 and has since broken impactful stories on modern slavery – winning the Local Journalism prize at the British Journalism Awards 2019, private mental health wards – highly commended at the 2021 awards, rogue landlords, and Bristol City Council’s use of bailiffs to pursue unpaid council tax.
Mizon said the publisher currently employs a team of ten, seven of whom are full-time equivalent.
Visuals for the fundraising campaign were designed by Bristol activists If Not Now and emphasise its independence from corporate media. The posters include the slogans “Give Murdoch the finger, give the Cable a fiver” and “Want to hear the very latest from Piers Morgan? Neither do we!” Advertisements for the campaign will appear on five billboards around Bristol.
Since those adverts were designed, Rupert Murdoch has announced he will step down as News Corp and Fox Corp chairman.
Mizon said that although that made some of the staff nervous about the designs, “a couple of us were just like, ‘Fuck yeah, okay, Murdoch’s trending. This is great… Yeah, we totally meant Lachlan.’”
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