Free Press patron programme rewards loyal subscribers with access, benefits

By Erin Lebar

Winnipeg Free Press

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada


Winnipeg daily newspaper the Free Press is marking its 150th anniversary in 2022. Along with various celebratory events and editorial projects, the newspaper also recently launched its patron programme for readers who want to go the extra mile to help ensure the Free Press sticks around for another 150 years.

Key points of the programme

1. The first is encouraging more involvement by way of advocacy from brand lovers. As with all organisations, brand lovers are the smallest pool of folks at the bottom of the funnel, but the ones who engage most frequently and most thoroughly with the content. They already love the product and would be the group most likely to share that love with a friend or family member.

The Free Press programme for patrons offers exclusive benefits while helping fund the high-quality journalism that has helped the publication thrive for the past 150 years.
The Free Press programme for patrons offers exclusive benefits while helping fund the high-quality journalism that has helped the publication thrive for the past 150 years.

So, as part of a series of exclusive benefits available to Free Press patrons (at a cost of C$150 annually or more if they should choose to do so), they have the ability to gift an annual all-access digital subscription to whomever they want. They also have access to a unique rate code for a heavily discounted annual digital subscription to share with as many people as they want.

When readers register to become patrons, they also have an option to leave a message or comment about why they support the Free Press. When a consumer is preparing to buy a product, what’s the first thing they do? Read the reviews. These patron testimonials are our reviews, of sorts.

The hope is that, by hearing or reading comments from Free Press supporters, it might more earnestly illustrate the value of local, independent news. These messages will also be compiled into an editorial story to promote the programme.

2. In addition to the subscription discounts, the second key point is to show patrons how much their support is appreciated by way of a host of other benefits. This include a concierge-style customer service line (both phone and e-mail) that prioritises their communications with the organisation and a monthly Patron Report newsletter that acts as an impact report sent from Free Press Editor Paul Samyn to update patrons on newsroom projects made possible by their donations.

Patrons are also entered into exclusive giveaways to win merchandise or the opportunities take part in Free Press experiences, such as watching a hockey game with our sports columnist, sitting in on a daily news meeting, or getting an exclusive tour of a new news-related art gallery exhibition from the editor.

Results so far

The Free Press patron programme launched October 21. Within the first week, it reached 12% of the goal of 1,500 patrons, and of those who joined, 20% agreed to a recurring annual contribution.

In the coming weeks, several editorial and advertising efforts will attempt to build on the momentum already in place as the campaign moves toward the November 30 anniversary.

While the Free Press patron programme will continue on long after that date, the hope is that while we celebrate the history of the Free Press, we can also toast to its future — thanks in no small part to patron-level supporters.

About Erin Lebar

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