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Home > News & Media > The NAA Blog > How to gain newspaper subscribers through microtargeting


How to gain newspaper subscribers through microtargeting

By Sean O'Leary, NAA Director of Communications

The tide is turning when it comes to newspaper subscriptions.

Over the past few years, newspapers have dramatically improved their effectiveness in acquiring and retaining subscribers. The improvements have come, in part, from circulation departments changing up their sales models and more effectively targeted sales.

Likewise, operational improvements across the industry in marketing home delivery while still placing a value on digital content have led to a more sustainable business model for newspapers.

Due to these strides, NAA believes that circulation revenue will continue to increase over the next few years and this new sustainable business model will yield positive results. However, newspapers must not rest on these recent successes. There must be a concerted effort to further enhance the cost effectiveness of subscription efforts, especially as digital components continue to play a significant role moving forward.

The impetus for change in acquiring new subscribers has been due to more readers looking to digital content as opposed to print. It rendered the old model of subscriber acquisition obsolete because it did not take into account the changing habits of today’s readers.

Decades ago, nearly any new subscriber would lead to a favorable return and high retention rate. Those same principles simply do not exist anymore. And while technology has expanded the ways for readers to consume information, it has also provided new methods for newspapers to identify and “micro-target” new subscribers based on a wealth of information.

In particular, the newspaper industry – in an effort to remain aggressive – needs to look at more than one characteristic when determining who will be a new subscriber and how high the retention rate will be. As a broad example, it is not just about zip code, delivery route or delivery frequency – it is about a combination of all these, in addition to more characteristics such as payment method, term and region.

A recent report authored by Jim Fleigner with Impact Consultancy LLC takes a deeper dive into what micro-targeting means for the industry and how it can be applied to your particular newspaper. The report is entitled “Microtargeting Subscriber Acquisition: Quantifying the value of hitting the acquisition Bullseye” and is available now for all NAA members.

In the report, Fleigner examines the application of microtargeting and how different sales channels within an organization should be focused to build the subscription base.

Microtargeting provides a clear and compelling blueprint for proactive focus and management at the lowest levels of segmentation and is a critical step in optimization of a newspaper’s acquisition function. Yet the report found that the vast majority of newspapers do not think about managing their acquisition activities in this way. Why don’t all newspapers microtarget?

For starters, the informational requirements are substantial relative to the information typically tracked by newspapers. The examples in the report feature newspapers with around 100 tracked segments, which is far more than any circulation executive can remember. The sheer magnitude of the data is perhaps why many newspapers do not investigate micro-targeting – and perhaps why they should.

The full report is available for free to all NAA members. Read the report.

If you are not an NAA member, learn about membership benefits and how to join.

First Published: October 03, 2013

About the Author

Sean O'Leary is director of communications at NAA. His journalism career began as a daily newspaper reporter for The Chronicle in Willimantic, Conn., and continued as a staff writer for the Hartford Business Journal. He oversees NAA’s communications and public relations strategy.

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