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Retention and trust lessons from the wreckage of The Correspondent

Retaining members requires trust. It feels basic, but The Correspondent's missteps in communicating with members appears to have accelerated the sustainability crisis that led to the site's closure in 2020. The post-mortem has lessons for communicating with members and avoiding the broken promises that spike churn.

On Dec. 31, 2020, De Correspondent officially shuttered The Correspondent, its English-language site. The Netherlands-based organization had run a high-profile, successful crowdfunding campaign to finance the site.

De Correspondent, which publicizes itself as an ad-free, member-funded site, raised $2.6 million in donations and backing from a who’s-who list of U.S. news funders to launch The Correspondent. Earlier in the year, the company cut the last U.S.-based staff writer, riling backers who were already peeved about the promises they said the company broke about a New York HQ for the site.

This coda emphasizes that retaining members, donors and funders requires maintaining their trust. It feels basic, but The Correspondent’s missteps in communicating with members appears to have driven churn and accelerated their sustainability crisis.

Click through to the Nieman Lab piece to read the full emails to staff that outline retention problems, as well as Laura Hazard Owen’s analysis of missteps.