Local news, differentiated content key to retain subscribers
In order to woo more readers and keep subscribers intact, news outlets need to strongly focus on local news amid maintaining a regular reader habit, a new study has said, stressing upon the value of "differentiated content" to stay afloat in the digital era.
According to Northwestern University's Medill Local News Initiative, the analysis of both the big metros and the small newsrooms showed the surprising finding that page views and depth of reading were not major factors in keeping subscribers which holds true for all news markets globally.
National news was more important for subscriber retention in small markets, and sports coverage was less of a retention driver, the findings showed.
The differences identified between the metros and the small outlets were illuminating, especially the strong demand for national news by small-market website readers.
"It's highly associated with retention. Not as associated as local news, but it's very highly significant. What that tells me is that I think in these smaller places people still go to the local newspaper – it's their window to the world," said Ed Malthouse, Research Director, Spiegel Research Center at the Medill School of Journalism.
"The frequency effect is pretty constant across all markets," Malthouse added.
Malthouse said the value of "differentiated content" -- including local news that readers can't get elsewhere – was demonstrated in both studies.
In Spiegel's analysis, the 12 small news outlets showed reader habit strongly linked with subscriber retention.
The small-markets study showed that among those who read no local stories in a month, the per cent who cancelled their subscriptions during that month was 0.7 per cent.
Those who read one local article had a cancellation rate of about 0.4 per cent.
The cancellation rate decreased to 0.3 pervcent for those reading 10 local articles, and 0.26 percent for those reading 50 or more local articles.
"While sending out several newsletters a day has become a common big-city news tactic to encourage regular readership, lightly staffed small outlets can't do that," said the study.
However, Rick Edmonds, a media business analyst for the Poynter Institute, said small newsrooms can try newsletters in a more limited way.
They could "do it more occasionally… to get the reading option in front of readers," Edmonds said.
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