Press Release: Medill Subscriber Engagement Index Platform

Medill and Mather Economics Partner to Drive Media Industry to Next Revenue Frontier

Medill Subscriber Engagement Index delivers data-driven precision on critical reader revenue and engagement triggers


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Updated January 22, 2021

ATLANTA, Ga. — Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications and Mather Economics have formed a cross-industry partnership to aggregate and analyze U.S. news media companies’ user behavior and subscription data.

The ongoing benchmarking project, called the Medill Subscriber Engagement Index, will launch in March 2021. MSEI has wide implications for producing game-changing, actionable insights that will accelerate the industry’s reader revenue-making and engagement abilities.

“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 to grow revenue at this pivotal time for the industry.”

Dozens of U.S. news media companies have joined the benchmarking project, including the 29 daily newspapers of the The McClatchy Company; the 10 daily newspapers of the Tribune Publishing; the 75 dailies of Lee Enterprises; The Seattle Times, the Denver Post; Newsday; the Dallas Morning News; The Philadelphia Inquirer; The Advocate; Las Vegas Review-Journal; The Spokesman-Review; and Bangor Daily News. More new publishers will be announced soon.

For non-U.S. companies, Mather Economics has similar benchmarking projects that media companies can benefit from. Contact Matt Lindsay for more information.

Register here for a comprehensive, informational webinar on February 18 at 3 p.m. Eastern time.

For the past decade and until now, media companies have developed their individual digital subscription strategies without the benefit of industrywide benchmarking. Meanwhile, advertising– historically the most important revenue maker for U.S. media—is in deep decline and subscription revenues are plateauing.

The Subscriber Engagement Index has arrived at a critical time. By studying audience engagement and digital subscriber benchmarks, participating media companies will be able to build data-driven subscription strategies and bypass tedious and expensive model-building and experiments.

“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,” says Matt Lindsay, President of Mather Economics.

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

 

Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ’s

Q: How is the data collected?
A: Subscriber data is provided to Mather Economics by our Newspaper clients each week. We 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 those 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 the 29 daily newspapers of the The McClatchy Company; the 10 daily newspapers of the Tribune Publishing; the 75 dailies of Lee Enterprises; The Seattle Times, the Denver Post; Newsday; the Dallas Morning News; The Philadelphia Inquirer; The Advocate; Las Vegas Review-Journal; The Spokesman-Review; and Bangor Daily News. More new 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: Attend the webinar on February 18 at 3 p.m. Eastern Time. Register here.

About the Partners:

About Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications: The Medill Subscriber Engagement Index is part of the Medill Local News Initiative, a research and development project aimed at promoting financial sustainability for local journalism in challenging times. Development of the index is being funded by a grant from the Google Innovation Challenge program. Tim Franklin, senior associate dean for Medill and John M. Mutz chair in local news, heads Medill’s the Local News Initiative.

Northwestern University’s Medill Spiegel Research Center developed the index. The research center is headed by Jonathan Copulsky, Spiegel’s executive director. Copulsky and Franklin share responsibility for the Subscriber Engagement Index Project. Spiegel will work with Mather Economics on the analysis of the benchmarking data.

About Mather Economics: Mather Economics is a global subscription data and analytics technology firm with more than 200 media company clients in North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia-Pacific. Mather will collect content usage, subscriber journey and conversion metrics, and revenue data from participating media partners with their Listener™ data collection platform. The data will be gathered, organized, reported by Mather and analyzed by Mather and the Medill Spiegel Research Center.  These media company data will drive the project benchmarks. Matt Lindsay, president of Mather Economics, will work with Spiegel to ascertain actionable insights for the media industry.

For more information:

Medill Contact: Sara Brazeal, sara.brazeal@northwestern.edu
Mather Contact: Shelley Coplin, shelley@mathereconomics.com

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