Hi, my name is Benjamin Cohen and I’m the CEO of PinkNews. This Tuesday marks 15 years since I first started work on building PinkNews. Since then we’ve helped advance LGBT+ equality globally and now reach tens of millions of users every month from all over the world, on our website and partner platforms. Our mission statement “PinkNews exists to inform, inspire change, and empower people to be themselves” informs everything that we do.
There has never been a time when robust, meaningful LGBT+ media has been needed more.
It’s hard to escape this reality when reading the latest articles on PinkNews. But this has come during a time when the business model, advertising – which has funded PinkNews for 15 years – has been ravaged by the impact of COVID-19.
It’s not just PinkNews which has been affected by COVID-19. BuzzFeed UK has closed its entire news operation, ending its award-winning LGBT+ coverage. Vice has cut back its reporting levels considerably, particularly hitting coverage on issues such as gender identity. The Guardian plans to cut 180 roles as it weathers the impact of the COVID induced storm. At the same time, mainstream media, from the newspapers to radio and TV news increasingly take an anti-LGBT+ and, in particular, an anti-trans approach.
This is why well-funded and authentic LGBT+ reporting needs to be supported, particularly if PinkNews is to grow our output during these testing times.
It’s also the case that many brands block advertising on LGBT+ related content, which leads to lower quality ads alongside some of our articles. I recognise that the PinkNews website has sometimes delivered a poor user experience – due to all the adverts!
So we needed to find another solution. More ads, to try and make up the losses and grow our coverage levels, wouldn’t help. One of the benefits of joining MyPinkNews is that you’ll see far fewer adverts on the website (we call this ‘ad-light’). This also helps us move away from being reliant on advertising for growth so we can concentrate on serving our paying users well.
We know that not all users will be able to pay for MyPinkNews, so the majority of our content will remain free to access, on an advertising-funded basis. We hope that those users who can afford will consider paying, to help us increase the quantity and quality of content for those who can’t pay themselves.
We feel that introducing MyPinkNews is the best way to ensure that we can continue to deliver on our PinkNews mission statement.
Here’s what you can get with your MyPinkNews membership:
- An ad-light experience on the PinkNews website
- Exclusive access to investigations and reportage before wider publication
- Expert and exclusive analysis on the main topics of the day
- The ability to comment on articles (launching August 2020)
- Webinars and virtual meetings with the news team and those making LGBT+ headlines
- 10% off purchases at PinkNews.shop
- The knowledge that you are supporting essential LGBT+ journalism
Membership of MyPinkNews costs $65 a year for US members, €65 for European members and £50 for UK members.
I wanted to answer some questions that you may have about why we are doing this and what the benefits will be of introducing MyPinkNews.
What type of content will MyPinkNews fund?
The type of content we will be investing in broadly splits into What? and Why? – or, in other words, investigations and analysis/commentary.
MyPinkNews users will be involved in the idea stage (through regular webinars) and get a first look at our investigations. These articles will also later be made available for our advertising-funded users.
MyPinkNews will commission analysis and commentary from a wide range of well-known and well-placed journalists and commentators. These articles are being commissioned to provide an informed ‘standing back approach’. They won’t focus on the literal daily news, but rather try and explain why what is happening is happening, provide context, as well as look towards what is likely to happen next. The vast majority of these articles will be made available for MyPinkNews users only.
Why is membership sold on an annual basis?
A single annual payment provides PinkNews with the best support through COVID-19 and it reduces the amount charged to us by banks and credit card companies. We will offer a monthly subscription soon, but if you would wish to purchase this now, please email [email protected] and we’ll set this up manually.
Can my employer subscribe?
Yes, we can arrange group subscriptions, please email [email protected] and one of the team will get back to you shortly!
Why isn’t PinkNews introducing a full paywall like other news websites?
We know from surveys that enough users would pay for our content to make a hard paywall make financial sense, but it conflicts with our mission statement.
We believe that to comply with the ‘inform’ part of our mission statement, the majority of our content must be free to access. It is the case that our content is also accessed by many young people, people from all around the world, and those whose financial circumstances would mean that they couldn’t afford to pay.
Therefore, we’d like to offer a value exchange for members. If you pay for MyPinkNews, you will get extra content and services, as well as an ad-light experience. By doing so, you will also be funding content for those users who can’t afford to pay.
Why not just sell more advertising?
Now is a very hard time to be selling advertising. The majority of the ads that you see are sold programmatically (through automated trading), which we feel offers users a poor experience. Also, many advertisers block their brands appearing next to LGBT+, particularly lesbian, related content. MyPinkNews users will not be shown as many advertisements when they are logged in. Content sponsorship will still be displayed, in a properly labelled and compliant form.
How will commenting work?
We had to turn off the ability to make comments on the PinkNews website because of large levels of transphobia, homophobia and racism by trolls. Soon, any user will be able to read comments, but only paying MyPinkNews members will be able to post a comment. We will have clear rules relating to homophobia, transphobia, dead-naming, racism and any other kind of bigotry. Any MyPinkNews user who posts such inappropriate comments will have the ability to comment suspended, but will still be able to access other MyPinkNews content and services. Of course, we will pass on relevant personal details that we will hold to the police and other law enforcement agencies in the case of hate speech being posted.
Is PinkNews a business, how does it make money and why should I contribute through membership?
PinkNews is a business and I’m the largest and controlling shareholder. In the past 15 years, we have made a profit, but never taken a dividend as we have invested in growing the business and paying our staff a fair wage. To date, our income has been generated through advertising, sponsorship, product sales (from PinkNews.shop) and event ticket sales. We have not asked users to contribute before, but we think the time is right to start doing so.
We are in the process of registering PinkNews as a certified B-Corp. This means that we will guarantee the current balance between making a profit and our defined purpose. We have some corporate reorganisation to do first, but we intend to be recognised as a certified B-Corp in 2021, if not earlier.