Case Study - How The News Minute Launched a Membership Site to Foster Community & Build a Sustainable Media Business

The News Minute is a digital news platform that reports and writes on Indian issues with an exclusive focus on the 5 Southern states. Covering the truth and stories of society, TNM aims to cover trustworthy news without confining journalism behind a paywall.

Then, how is it possible to cut noise in the digital landscape, where countless sources battle for the audience's attention, yet, create a sustainable revenue model for their independent media business? 

That's when the concept of TNM Connect was born - to keep news free of cost while creating a membership fee based community of readers around the news. The members can interact with the editors and reporters at TNM around specific news stories published on the website. This engagement around the news helps NRIs, a major audience of TNM, connect in a deeper manner with their cultural roots and discuss matters that interest them, be it political, social, celebratory, or tragic, in an informed manner. 

TNM Connect is a project funded by Google Innovation Challenge, run by the Google News Initiative. 

Challenges

Some of the biggest challenges of building a membership site with a globally spread out audience are: accepting overseas payments, accommodating large traffic, and creating a thriving and engaging community. 

Moreover, it was integral to build a platform that would fulfill TNM's requirements, which are as follows:

  • Simplify onboarding, payment, and management of the membership.
  • Enable members to pay using various options, maintain, and renew their membership.
  • Facilitate single sign-on using TNM ID to access the mobile app, website, and discussion forum.
  • Offer exclusive content to the members like:
    • Advertisement free access to the TNM portal and mobile application.
    • Access to a membership directory and personal profile.
    • Automatically subscribe to a member-only newsletter.
  • Creating a contact database to ensure TNM can have communication with their members selectively.

Overcoming the above challenges would enable TNM to offer a seamless experience to their NRI audiences residing in the US, UK, and UAE. 

Finally, it would help the audience stay connected to their cultural roots by discussing issues in their home town and get access to a member-only experience like an ad-free platform, the weekly newsletter, digital community, events, and more.

Our approach

Each membership site is unique and caters to separate audiences. 

Thus, to create a platform that helps TNM achieve its goals, we analyzed several CRMs and discussed the same with the client, to reach a mutual ground.

Our idea of an ideal platform was the one that supports login system on mobile and web, restricts ads, and supports payment gateway to facilitate online payments.

Finally, the platform should activate a discussion forum that grants members access to a bustling community. 

Solution

We implemented CiviCRM on Drupal 8, and our recommendation was based on enabling:

  • Member sign-up
  • Member profile
  • Membership renewal reminders
  • Contact database for the administrator
  • Easy communication with the members
  • Ad-free experience for members
  • Flexibility in payment gateway

Furthermore, Drupal 8 would ensure single sign-on, so that members can seamlessly sign in to various devices, locations, and times.

Finally, Discourse, an open-source platform, was chosen as the discussion forum since it offers a clutter-free community experience. Discourse works well with small as well as large groups, which is perfect for scaling a community.

Results

Creating a membership site to turn your visitors into brand ambassadors and gain your potential customers' trust is a winning strategy

TNM Connect leveraged its community's power, launched its membership site, and received praise for the same. We will update this case study as we have more statistics and sign-ups. 

 

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