Medill Subscriber Engagement Index

Benchmarking engagement and subscription usage data

This informational webinar was presented Feb. 16 by Matt Lindsay, president of Mather Economics, and Tim Franklin, Medill’s senior associate dean and John M. Mutz Chair in Local News, for members of America's Newspapers.

View a recording of the webinar here

View the PowerPoint here

This is a very powerful and important project to the newspaper industry. The ability to measure your engagement levels and benchmark your levels and progress against your peers is a great step in growing subscriber revenue.

Our partners at Medill and Mather are more than happy to answer any questions you might have about participating.

America's Newspapers highly recommends that you reach out to them and start the process of joining this program. There is no cost to you to participate in the first year.

Feel free to contact Tim Franklin directly with any questions you have and to get more information, such as:

• A private demo of the benchmarking technology and the "What if" tool.
• To understand how to apply the insights into action and revenue making.
• To discuss details about the extraordinary care that will be taken with the security of your data.
• To discuss how the data for subscribers and their online activity will be exchanged with Medill.
• To join the benchmarking project in the United States.
• Clarifications about the webinar content.
• To apply these benchmarking insights to non-US media companies.

Tim Franklin can be reached at: timothy.franklin@northwestern.edu

Why participate?

Editors and subscription managers from participating U.S. media companies will be able to use MSEI's data exploration tool to customize usage and revenue data queries in fine detail, and to simulate future revenue scenarios by accessing the aggregated and anonymized data.

Among the essential engagement and subscription topics the ongoing benchmarking project will collect and analyze are:

● Content that drives engagement.
● Content that reduces subscriber engagement.
● User journeys.
● Subscription acquisition levers.
● Predictive modeling for churn.
● Acquisition, churn and lifetime value markers.
● Marketing tactics that assist acquisition and retention.
● Average revenue per user (ARPU).

Participating publishers will receive the following benefits:

● Exclusive and unlimited access to the data exploration tool.
● Anonymized data, untraceable to your company.
● Access to training and tips for maximizing the data exploration tool.
● Regular webinars with subscriber engagement index experts and case studies.
● Exclusive and unlimited access to detailed benchmarking reports with actionable analysis.
● Early access to additional functionality planned for subsequent releases (e.g., content
recommendation systems).

“We’re drawn to this tool because it’s going to help us learn from other news companies participating in the index,” said Shannan Bowen, McClatchy’s director of product engagement. “And we’re also excited about trying a tool that anyone in our company can use, from journalists or marketing teams or product teams. All of our different groups are aligned with our mission to grow digital subscriptions and reduce churn.”

“Reader revenue is now a cornerstone in the business model for local news,” said Tim Franklin, Medill’s senior associate dean and John M. Mutz Chair in Local News. “What makes this Index so valuable is that it will allow local news outlets to not only measure their own performance with paying readers, but to benchmark against peers across companies around the nation. It also includes a 'What If' tool that uses current subscriber data to predict future financial outcomes of strategic decisions. These insights will empower local news leaders with insights to grow revenue at this pivotal time for the industry.”

Matt Lindsay, president of Mather Economics, said: “Mather Economics is supporting the Medill Subscriber Engagement Index because we believe understanding how subscribers value content is vital to achieving a sustainable business model for local journalism. Mather is fortunate to work with hundreds of newspapers in North America, and we are uniquely positioned to provide Medill with anonymized data from across the industry with the consistency and quality necessary for academic research. We are also able to help publishers act on the insights provided by the SEI platform.”

View PowerPoint from Informational Webinar

Having trouble viewing this document? Click here to download the PDF.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How is the data collected?
A: Subscriber data is provided to Mather Economics by its newspaper clients each week. Mather will anonymize the subscriber account data and combine it with online activity from subscribers. Mather’s Listener™ pixel will capture the subscriber’s online activity.

Q: What can participants do with the aggregated data? 
A: Participating media companies can explore the wealth of anonymized data using the data exploration tool, and can also access regular benchmarking reports for actionable analysis on trends and best practices from other participating media companies across the United States. The data tool will be used by editorial and business-side managers to drill down into detailed, customized and anonymized data to assist in making daily content decisions, building products, understanding user behavior and refining subscription strategies.

Q: Who has access to our company’s data?
A: Only key executives from Medill and Mather will have access to the data from each company, all of which is anonymized. No outside parties will have access to the data, nor will the data be identified with any participating company.

Q: Is there a cost?
A: There is no cost to participate in the first year.

Q: Which companies can participate? 
A: Any news media company in the United States that agrees to provide the subscriber data and place the Listener pixel on their website(s) for the purpose of collecting engagement and subscription benchmarking. For non-U.S. companies, Mather Economics has similar benchmarking projects that media companies can benefit from.

Q: Which companies are participating so far?
A: Dozens of U.S. news media companies have joined the benchmarking project, including McClatchy's 29 daily newspapers, Tribune Publishing's 10 daily newspapers, the 75 dailies of Lee Enterprises, The Seattle Times, The Denver Post, Tampa Bay Times, Sonoma Media Investments, Newsday, The Dallas Morning News, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Advocate (Baton Rouge, Louisiana), Las Vegas Review-Journal, The Spokesman-Review, Bangor Daily News, Anchorage Daily News, Colorado Springs Gazette and The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, Iowa). More publishers will be announced soon.

“We’re drawn to this tool because it’s going to help us learn from other news companies participating in the index,” said Shannan Bowen, McClatchy’s director of product engagement. "And we’re also excited about trying a tool that anyone in our company can use, from journalists or marketing teams or product teams. All of our different groups are aligned with our mission to grow digital subscriptions and reduce churn.”

To become a media partner, contact Tim Franklin at Medill: timothy.franklin@northwestern.edu

Q: How can I learn more?
A: View a recording of this webinar held for members of America's Newspapers.  View the PowerPoint here.