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Our mid-year review: Readership takes a dramatic turn up

Monday, July 11, 2022 by Joel Gross

Even though our roots go back to the mid-1990s, the Austin Monitor officially launched as a nonprofit in 2013. To some, that may not seem like a long time ago, while to others (myself included) it feels like a different era.

Strong and enduring nonprofits are constantly assessing the environment they operate in, and at the start of 2021, we were sure of two things: that the community we serve and the news and information landscape had changed dramatically since 2013. Through a deliberate and methodical process, our organization ultimately decided that the most effective way to elevate our service to the community was to remove our paywall and open up all of our local news and resources to the public.  

We enacted this shift in the final days of 2021, and as of July 1, we have six full months of this new, fully accessible news model under our belt. The top hope was that our work would reach more of the community, and we set a goal of 20 percent more overall readers. But even with overwhelmingly positive early feedback, we knew only time and data will tell a more complete story. Finally, since we put our service to you above all else, sharing a mid-year update is an important step in being accountable and upholding our commitment.  

We’re proud to share that our readership is dramatically up in every major category. Overall readership is, in fact, up 50 percent and new readers and return readers are also up significantly when compared to last year. Here are three data points at the six-month mark that highlight the positive response from the community: 

  • Our work has reached over 142,000 new readers (compared to 2021)
  • January, May and June reached all-time monthly reader highs 
  • We’re on track to serve more readers than ever this year

While we’re undoubtedly excited to be reaching more community members, it’s also clear that the need for nonpartisan, in-depth news and local coverage is much greater than we anticipated. This makes sense. Austin is one of the most dynamic cities in the country and is working through real issues. The local news industry has struggled for years; our friends over at The Texas Tribune just published a story revealing that Texas has lost more newspaper journalists per capita than all but two other states.

Our main takeaway from this mid-year review is that you and your neighbors need more news and resources that really empower you to discover, understand, follow, and become a part of the issues and decisions that are shaping our community. We hear you and here’s how we’re responding: Beginning today we’re releasing a series of exclusive stories from our new Austin Issues Poll. We hope these stories and the data behind them give you a deeper understanding of the state of our city. The poll is part of a broader focus on highlighting and breaking down important data points and trends that are affecting the community.

You will also soon begin seeing story collections of the most topical issues show up on our home news page. This feature will help you find and follow the development of pressing local stories. 

Along the same lines, we will be expanding and centralizing the civic engagement opportunities that are active within the community. This focus on civic engagement will show up on our website and in person with several community events already being organized for the fall and 2023.      

Finally, with so much on the horizon and need across the community, we’re launching our first-ever Summer Membership Drive. We’re honored to serve you every day and to offer all of our news and resources to the community regardless of ability to pay. This was a big shift for our local nonprofit news organization, but we did it because it was right and because it was important. You know it takes dedicated time and resources to do this work, so if you believe our work is important we hope you’ll consider joining the hundreds of readers who support our work and become a member today.  

Joel Gross is the CEO of the Austin Monitor.

The Austin Monitor’s work is made possible by donations from the community. Though our reporting covers donors from time to time, we are careful to keep business and editorial efforts separate while maintaining transparency. A complete list of donors is available here, and our code of ethics is explained here.

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