Mississippi Today was selected as the first-place winner of the Local Media Association’s Digital Innovation Awards for its strategy to grow reader revenue around the Pulitzer Prize-winning series, The Backchannel.

READ MORE: Anna Wolfe and Mississippi Today win Pulitzer Prize for “The Backchannel” investigation

Mississippi Today staff members Lauchlin Fields, Bethany Atkinson and Alyssa Bass led the distribution and engagement strategy along with the reader revenue initiative, which garnered more than 75 donations from readers citing the investigative series on Mississippi’s sprawling welfare scandal as their reason for giving in the two months following the launch of the series.

“Our goal was to reach as many readers as we could and to convert loyal readers into paying members,” said Fields, Mississippi Today’s audience development director. “While (The Backchannel) series published in April (2022), our plan allowed us to follow the long tail of the stories that came out of (Anna Wolfe’s) investigation.”

The winning strategy centered on a dedicated two-month plan that involved Wolfe engaging with readers through reader surveys, video, texting, special member appeals and a dedicated newsletter, which allowed readers to have a more intimate role in the continuing coverage of the welfare investigation.

Mississippi Today offers an exemplary case study of leveraging their core asset — watchdog reporting in service of the community — to generate new reader revenue. What’s most impressive is how the entire organization rallied behind this initiative, despite the traditional church-and-state “we can’t talk with each other” operating mentality. The thorough, full-funnel, cross-departmental audience plan was “innovative” and the calls to action were “aggressive” and effective.”  

Judge’s Comments

This is the first year the statewide online news publication competed in the LMA Digital Innovation Awards, a contest which recognizes the best in local digital media in 15 categories, such as Best Local Website, Best Virtual Event, Best Branded Content Strategy and more. It is a highly competitive contest designed to recognize both large and small media companies for their outstanding and innovative work.

Local Media Association is a 501(c)(6) trade association focused on the business side of local media with programs and labs that focus on revenue growth and new business models.

Reader revenue, which refers to financial contributions from readers, empowers nonprofit news organizations like Mississippi Today to maintain editorial independence, establish a direct relationship with audiences and produce high-quality journalism that serves the public interest. 

READ MORE: ‘A full-funnel approach’: How Mississippi Today’s welfare scandal investigation led to record donations

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.