Minimizing Reader Churn for Non-Subscription News Properties

The New York Daily News or the New York Post might not charge a direct fee for access to their respective News Properties, but readers obviously pay indirectly as the news properties monetize the Article Views through advertising and other similar tactics.

Combining the above with the fact that the majority of the readers, to the above two properties, live in New York and are suspected to be well within the properties target groups – you could even call them loyal readers. They might only be loosely connected to the news properties and they might not be asked to surrender anything directly – money or data. However, a “cookie” is saved and the news properties most certainly know that they are returning readers and to what extent.

If you are a returning reader and if you are successfully monetized in a recurring fashion – you are a subscriber! And if you are a subscriber you can be lost. Churn!

This is not to say that the somewhat random international visitor, who arrives on the Daily, reads 1 article and does not return for 6 months, should be considered an online subscriber. The fat (additional article views) created from this segment should not be part of any healthy Churn Analysis.

If we agree on the above, a more sophisticated set of churn analysis becomes possible and you can begin to apply Subscription Economics to an otherwise more generic page view setting. Beyond the upgraded analysis, you open up for a number of very interesting strategic monetization dialogues – beyond the knee-jerk reaction of applying a pay-wall as an entry ticket to the Subscription Economy.

Many media strategies today talk about Reader Acquisition, such as Social Media strategies, Organic Search Strategies and so on and so forth. This is not necessarily contradictory to a Minimizing Reader Churn strategy, but only working on one part of the problem is not healthy – you increase acquisition cost and decrease life time reader value.

A lot of churn analysis resolve around product usage, which is certainly one of the better indicators of whether a customer is indeed receiving value from their subscription. One such usage metric we see used among our customers is the amount of Unique Article Views in a single visit. Loyal readers are likely to start on the Homepage or Section Front page and indirectly ask the news property what they have on the menu today. In this scenario Front Page programming is unquestionably one of the best tactics you can apply to decrease churn. If a loyal reader arrive on the Front Page of the NY Post and sees nothing of interest, their usage could decrease, and if this experience is repeated often enough you’ll see that reader start on the NY Daily News one morning. Churn!

Cheers :-)
/ Dennis (@dennismortensen)

* Thanks much to Varun Vijayaraghavan for reading a draft of this