Subscriptions make community radio sustainable

For all the troubles traditional newspapers are experiencing in their migration to the internet and trying to make people pay for content that up until now has been free, community radio has long managed to derive a substantial part of its funding from subscriptions. What’s most impressive about that is that the subscriptions are voluntary.

Like micro breweries, successful community stations can tap into small but intense listener groups who prefer a more individual radio experience and are willing to pay for it.

Community stations may be run by volunteers, but that doesn’t mean they’re unprofessional, especially when it comes to raising money.

According to recent figures, permanently licensed community broadcasters derive more than 40% of the income from sponsorships while up to 20 % comes from subscriptions and donations provided by listeners who have such a bond to their local station that they feel compelled to hand over their hard-earned to ensure it stays on air.


A case in point is Eastside 89.7FM which this week is in its annual ‘radiothon’ mode to elicit support from its loyal listeners who tune in for an eclectic mix of music styles with a jazz undertone and a focus on Sydney’s eastern suburbs.

The theme for the subscription drive is The Evolution Will Not Be Televised and the sweetener is a share in $15,000 worth of prizes if you sign up as a supporter before Saturday June 30.

Typically its $66 to be a Regular Supporter, $120 to be a Gold Supporter or $250 to be a Business Supporter. For that, their website says, “you’ll experience a vibrant creative culture, something to make our city proud.” And if you don’t pay but still listen…?

Then miss out on the fact that supporters also get a range of discounts at various sponsor businesses, a CD and $100 travel voucher at a local travel agency. And the warm and fuzzy feeling that you’ve given something back to the station you get so much from.

What if newspapers adopted the same volunteer pay model?