BuzzFeed News is now asking readers for donations as part of its 'long-term project of building a sustainable news business'

Getty Images/Kimberly WhiteBuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti.
  • BuzzFeed News has launched a recurring membership program for its readers.
  • The program has two tiers: For $US5 a month, readers get access to exclusive newsletters and behind-the-scenes content, or for $US100 a year, they get all the above as well as a branded tote bag.
  • The membership program is BuzzFeed’s latest move in its ongoing bid to continue to diversify its revenue streams.

BuzzFeed already sells a cobranded kitchenware line at Walmart and has a book club in partnership with Amazon. Now, it has rolled out a recurring membership program for its readers.

Starting today, BuzzFeed News readers can donate to the news outlet to support its journalism. Specifically:

  • For $US5 a month, readers can get access to exclusive newsletters with some of the publisher’s biggest scoops as well as behind-the-scenes content.
  • And for $US100 a year up-front, they can receive all of the above and a limited edition BuzzFeed News tote bag, along with other merchandise down the road.

The membership program comes on the heels of a pilot program kickstarted in late August, when the company started working with Google to test contributions directly from its audience to gauge readers’ willingness to pay to support its stories.

The test yielded positive signals from its audience, the company’s global news director, Lisa Tozzi, said to employees in a note circulated this morning.

“Since launching, we’ve received positive feedback,” Tozzi wrote. “In fact, the average contribution from our test was more than $US20, and some readers actually asked us for a way to support BuzzFeed News on an ongoing basis.”

BuzzFeed News has no plans for the membership program to evolve into any sort of a paywall, a rep told Business Insider, but sees it as yet another opportunity to build a loyal and dedicated community of readers.

It is also the latest among a steady stream of publishers that are trying to build a community around membership programs that give readers deeper access to exclusive content, events and merchandise. While The Guardian, The New York Times and The Atlantic have had their digital subscriptions and membership programs for a while, Quartz launched a paid membership program for its readers just last week.

“We’ve seen some of our competitors have success with reader-supported revenue, and see this as an important plank in the long-term project of building a sustainable news business long-term – while keeping our reporting free and available to the largest possible audience on the open web,” Tozzi said.

The membership program is BuzzFeed’s latest move in its ongoing bid to continue to diversify its revenue streams. Over the years, the company has expanded from a website to video distribution, studio development, and, steadily, e-commerce.

In 2018, it embraced programmatic advertising after eschewing it for years. More recently, its health and wellness brand Goodful announced a partnership with Macy’s to release a line of home products.

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