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Minnesota Women’s Press

Feminist publication forges new connections

Minnesota Women’s Press learns more about their readers and creates new content packages, attracting underwriting and individual contributions.

Championing a legacy of advocacy journalism

When journalist Mikki Morrissette purchased Minnesota Women’s Press, she accepted the challenge of keeping a grassroots publication and its website thriving. Since 1985, the Press has served as a feminist platform and a voice for all women. When the previous owners retired, Morrissette, a freelance contributor, didn’t want to see the operation fold.

“This was right after the 2016 elections, and it was not the time to let the longest-running feminist publication in the country die,” Morrissette recalls. She and her mother pulled together the funding, and Morrissette took over as publisher in December 2017.

Their mission: Provide “authentic community-based journalism that amplifies and inspires the stories and leadership of powerful, everyday women (cis and trans) and nonbinary people.” The print magazine is distributed free at 550 sites around the Twin Cities; however, their voluntary subscriber base and small-business advertising doesn’t bring in enough money to expand the operation digitally and statewide. Morrissette needed to get creative to generate more revenue.

Starting in December 2021, Morrissette took part in the Google News Initiative Product Lab workshops to rethink her content strategy and business plan.

We learned in the lab to approach our content as a product and a passion. It’s both.
Mikki Morrissette
Publisher/Editor, Minnesota Women’s Press

Learning what matters most to readers

The Google News Initiative (GNI) teamed Morrissette with a coach to help her better understand how to package digital content that appeals to supporters and online readers. “We recognized we can't cover all the topics people care about. So how are we going to make decisions? And where is the revenue going to come from so we can keep growth going?”

While working with GNI, Morrissette and team gathered audience insights through a virtual statewide survey asking readers what they were most afraid of. Issues included climate change, white supremacy, gun violence, discrimination, and mental health problems. “We were then able to develop stories [to match] the key issues,” Morrissette says.

In January 2022, the Press published a special issue focused on fear. They also launched the Changemakers Alliance “to move our statewide community of engaged readers off the page and into connection and action together.” Members engage in conversation around key issues, providing a pipeline for new content, such as a video compilation with readers Talking About Fear.

New outreach director, Crystal Brown, moderating an MLK event
New outreach director, Crystal Brown, moderating an MLK event
Minnesota Women's Press team photo
Speakers at “Celebrating Badass Minnesota Women” event in April 2022
New outreach director, Crystal Brown, moderating an MLK event
New outreach director, Crystal Brown, moderating an MLK event
Minnesota Women's Press team photo
Speakers at “Celebrating Badass Minnesota Women” event in April 2022
  • $30K netted from 5 underwriters in year 1
  • 10% reduction in reliance on print ad revenue
  • $9K brought in from test membership program

Diversifying revenue with sponsorships

Morrissette used Google Analytics to learn how readers interact with the Women’s Press website. “The Lab showed us how to look at the numbers and focus our energies,” Morrissette notes. With these insights, Morrissette created content packages focused on themes such as Diversity in Politics and in-person events, including Celebrating Badass Minnesota Women.

With an advertising model already in place, Morrissette created an underwriting program for special topics and online events. Within three months, four sponsors signed on to kickstart the program. “We generated 25 percent of our annual goal from just four conversations with our partners,” Morrissette says. Their first four underwriters included a major oil change franchise, a political candidate training program for women, an LGBTQ+ health services center, and a university press. A fifth underwriter, a statewide community foundation, came on to help the Press prepare for their Reproductive Justice conversations.

Morrissette recently expanded the Women’s Press team, including a development consultant to build out a full fee-based membership program, an outreach director, a video editor, and a social media coordinator to build a larger online audience. They now do two e-newsletters per week instead of one to help grow advertising and membership appeals, with future expansion planned for niche audiences in politics, climate, and justice.

“Our legacy print vehicle [brought] us visibility and brand loyalty,” Morrissette says. “Now we’re generating online-only content for the first time. It’s about keeping our eye on the prize and being able to generate revenue from the passions our readers share.”

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