The Salt Lake Tribune offers a new way for digital readers to subscribe and donate at the same time

(Pat Bagley | The Salt Lake Tribune)

As it continues to redefine itself as a nonprofit, The Salt Lake Tribune has unveiled a new hybrid subscription model that lets readers donate money and pay for access to its digital edition simultaneously.

Managers at The Tribune say the new system lets subscribers buy basic access to its online offerings for $7.99 a month or $79 a year, then automatically tack on an additional tax-deductible gift to support the newspaper if they choose. The Tribune is calling these readers “supporting subscribers.”

Monthly supporting subscribers can pay $15 or $25, with the latter option including access to exclusive events, newsletters and other perks. Those buying a year’s access can boost their subscription to $150, with the same benefits.

The basic subscription options are still available. And readers can still access seven articles for free each month. The Tribune offers free digital access at libraries.

Since launching the program, roughly half of The Tribune’s new digital subscribers have already made the leap, said Fraser Nelson, Tribune vice president of philanthropy.

The Tribune became the first U.S. newspaper approved by the Internal Revenue Service to transition into a 501(c)(3) public charity late last year. And since then, Nelson said, it has sought donations but also maintained the ability for readers to subscribe for a fee.

The new option combines the two into one transaction, she said, while ensuring readers get the yearly paperwork they’ll need to deduct the donated portion of what they pay on their taxes. The Tribune is still accepting donations separate from any subscription.

“You can think of us almost as a social enterprise, providing a public good,” Nelson said Tuesday. “And there's a cost to providing that service, so we're asking people to make a donation in addition to the cost of the service itself.”

Jennifer Napier-Pearce said that since she became The Tribune’s editor in 2016, numerous readers have said they want to support the journalism “above and beyond the basic subscription.”

“So far the response [to the Supporting Subscriber program] has been very positive,” Napier-Pearce said. “We’re grateful to those who can give a little extra to ensure that The Tribune news team stays strong."

Nelson said readers were “phenomenally supportive” with outright donations prior to unveiling the new subscription choice.

“But they’ve really embraced this,” Nelson said, “and I think they understand that in this volatile time, local journalism is not only keeping us informed. It’s keeping us safe and keeping us connected.”