Abstract: Customer relationships are an important pillar of a business model (Osterwalder & Pigneur, 2010). For years, though, news media has not invested much effort into nurturing rich connections with their consumers and, consequently, neglected the promotion of a participatory culture that could bring benefits for all involved (Neuberger & Nuernbergk, 2010; Rosen, 2006). Vanishing advertising revenue and changing habits of news consumption on the Internet create a situation for changing that situation—especially when considering journalism as a service (Jarvis, 2014). Therefore, this article employs multiple case-study research to analyze and compare how four digital news natives from different countries (The Correspondent from the Netherlands, eldiario.es from Spain, Mediapart from France, and the Brazilian branch of The Intercept) are creating more meaningful connections with their audiences in order to sustain their businesses. We found out that all cases resort in varying degrees to the ideology of journalism, personification, transparency, impactful content, and community as motivations to attract members, while at the same time refraining from advertising becomes a guarantee of independence. Social media is losing ground, as companies use their own platforms and channels, such as emails, to develop routines that take member participation into account in different levels—from intermediate to maximal—though customization is still limited. The challenge for online-born news companies is to manage so many variables while taking into consideration feedback from their sustainable base of members.
Keywords: business models; customer relationships; digital journalism; entrepreneurial journalism; innovation; news media; revenue sources