"The way I think about social action is it should almost be a prize at the end of the Cracker Jack box," says Greg Behrman, CEO of NationSwell. By pairing each story with a petition, fundraising drive, or other action, readers feel committed—to a cause, and to the publication.
These publishers are passionate, but let's be honest: "Demonstrating engagement is a way to monetize that community," says ad veteran Stephanie Pollok, who's sold ads for the Los Angeles Times. In an era of ignored banner ads, activism is a way to show readers' attentiveness—and if they'll click on a petition, maybe they'll click on an ad, too.
A version of this article appeared in the December 2013 / January 2014 issue of Fast Company magazine.