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Building habit not pageview matters most for keeping subscribers

Poynter: “As online advertising lags, many local news organizations are shifting their strategy to focus on reader-based revenue models, especially digital subscriptions, as a path to financial sustainability and greater community service. That pivot is redefining the goals for many news outlets. Rather than chasing viral “clicks” to boost ad revenue, they are trying to establish their value to subscribers. New strategies require new insights into local digital audiences. That’s why a major new Northwestern University analysis of reader and subscriber data from three big-city news websites asks a more nuanced and essential question: What behaviors make readers willing to pay? The researchers’ answer: 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. “

This research illustrates a sea change in the relationship between local news organizations and their readers,” said Tim Franklin, a senior associate dean at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. “As the industry moves to a business model more focused on digital subscriptions, local news organizations need to create a value proposition for readers that leads them to become frequent, daily consumers of their news and information. “Our data analysis shows that in this new era for local news, metrics like page views and time spent on articles – two commonly cited benchmarks – are not nearly as important as the number of readers who are frequent users. With that knowledge, the question then becomes: What are the tools and types of news and information that local outlets can generate to grow a daily reader habit?” said Franklin, former president of The Poynter Institute and a former top editor at the Indianapolis Star, Orlando Sentinel and Baltimore Sun…”

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