Researchers Crunched 13 TB of Local Newspaper Subscriber Data. Here’s What They Found About Who Sticks Around.
Hey, local newspapers: Want to try to predict which of your subscribers are going to stick with you — and keep paying — no matter what? New research out of the Medill Local News Initiative at Northwestern suggests that creating a habit is the most important thing to focus on: The frequency of reading local news is “the single biggest predictor of retaining subscribers — more than the number of stories read or the time spent reading them.”
In some cases, in fact, “high rates of story reading and time spent per story” were actually associated with people dropping their subscriptions. Yes, the researchers say, this is indeed a “puzzling surprise” (more on it below).
Folks from Medill’s Spiegel Research Center, led by research director Edward Malthouse, analyzed 13 terabytes of anonymous reader and subscriber data from the Chicago Tribune, Indianapolis Star, and San Francisco Chronicle. In doing so, they were able to “trace anonymized, individual behaviors of people who kept and cancelled digital subscriptions.” The team had about a year of data from the Chronicle, nearly three years of data from the Tribune, and a little over two years of data from the Star.