top of page

From the Index: 
Independent publishers are struggling to move to reader revenue  

Our fourth excerpt from the Public Interest News Foundation’s Index of Independent News Publishing 2021. 

  • Despite large online audiences, only a sixth of total revenue amongst our sample came from reader revenue streams such as memberships or subscriptions.  

  • Publishers with a higher percentage of membership revenue tend to be newer, non-profit co-operatives. 

PINF Charts.png

Independent publishers stand to benefit from the public’s search for trustworthy and accountable sources of information. However, it takes time, money and know-how to build revenue streams such as membership, subscriptions and donations.  

Only 16% of our publishers’ revenue comes from readers. By contrast, The Guardian now generates a majority of its revenue from the membership model which it has spent years – and millions of pounds – building. 

Just under half of our respondents are generating some revenue from their readers. Of this, 44% comes from membership and donations, while 36% comes from print sales.  

The organisations with a higher proportion of membership revenue were typically more recently established non-profits with a co-operative ownership structure. 


We recommend that policymakers and philanthropists support all publishers to explore reader revenue models. 



This post is an excerpt from the Public Interest News Foundation’s Index of Independent News Publishing 2021. The Index 2021 is the first in a planned series of annual surveys. We’re keen to hear your feedback, such as suggestions for further research over the years to come. 

Authors: Dr Clare Cook, Dr Jonathan Heawood, Dr Coral Milburn-Curtis and Joe Mitchell.  


With thanks to the 56 publishers who took part in the survey. For more on the survey methodology, please see the full report.

bottom of page