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Reorient your funnel to build readers’ news habit

This study by the Medill Center at Northwestern University re-centers the importance of local content in encouraging daily news consumption, which the massive data project shows is the most likely predictor of subscription and retention. As simple as it seems, this change represents a dramatic reorientation of the KPI's for news organizations pivoting from ad-based to reader-supported models.

Northwestern University researchers found surprising trends in the relationship between reader behavior and subscriptions in 13 TB of data from The Chicago Tribune, The San Francisco Chronicle and The Indianapolis Star.

News organizations must get their readers into a regular habit to keep them as digital subscribers. The study showed that frequency of consuming local news is the single biggest predictor of retaining subscribers—more than the number of stories read or the time spent reading them.

Readers came back day after day for differentiated local content, the work that only these news organizations can offer.

The tactical insights embedded in this expansive study offer news organizations ways to reorient their work to an audience-first, habit-building funnel. The section on personalized newsletters outlines ideas for serving targeted audiences with targeted content, like we outline in Table Stake #1 (also, see our section on email newsletters for more ideas about using these powerful tools).

Big picture-wise, this study suggests that organizing your funnel (see Table Stake #4) around building relationships with your audience, rather than page views or time on site, better aligns your overall strategy with increasing subscriptions and undercutting churn.