A number of journalism stakeholders have begun advocating for news organizations to adopt membership models as a means to solving the industry’s audience trust and revenue problems. This small but growing group distinguishes “membership” from more traditional subscription models by emphasizing the former’s focus on collaborative–rather than transactional–relationships with the audience. In this paper, we argue that this conceptualization of membership, while uncommon in journalism, has been widely embraced within another institution: organized religion. In light of this connection, this study draws on in-depth interviews with megachurch membership directors, membership consultants and members themselves to answer the question: What does this conceptualization of “membership” look like in practice? Despite the obvious differences between news and religious organizations, we argue that understanding the latter’s approach to membership is useful for understanding the implications for the news industry and the public, should membership models become increasingly popular.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Religious studies