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Mother Jones used its prison exposé to turn readers into sustaining donors


You might have heard: In June 2016, Mother Jones published a major exposé on private prisons (Mother Jones)

But did you know: The success of Mother Jones’ prison exposé can be measured in awards, but Benjamin Mullin writes there’s another way to look at the success of the exposé: “It helped Mother Jones bring in a lot of money.” Two months after the story was published, Mother Jones published an appeal for reader support, explaining why ad money wasn’t enough to keep their newsroom (and other newsrooms) afloat and explaining why Bauer’s story took so much time and money to produce. As a result, Mother Jones has seen “hockey stick growth” in its number of readers who give monthly: Before publishing the appeal, Mother Jones brought in about $20,000 from sustaining reader contributions each month; by the end of November 2016, it was receiving about $70,000 in sustaining reader contributions each month.

+ “For November through January, [Mother Jones] saw a 160 percent increase over the same period a year ago in small donations, typically $20 to $50. It also tripled revenue from donors who have signed up for recurring monthly payments, and had a 72 percent increase in Web traffic in January over the same month last year. What’s more, the number of Web viewers who subscribed to the print magazine, which comes out every other month and has a circulation of around 200,000, also tripled” (San Francisco Chronicle)

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