How The (London) Times cut churn with its AI-powered newsletters

A cartoon drawing of a robot on a plaster wall.
Robo(t), by Daniel Lobo, from Flickr, Some Rights Reserved

At work, my hip-hop name is K-Fun, as in Kevin and conversion funnel. I’m semi-obsessed with how we can convert casual users into, in the case of the public media stations I work for, members.

So it should come as no surprise that the top story in today’s newsletter is about how The Times (of London is using AI and newsletters to reduce subscriber churn.

In my work, I’m focused on the top of the funnel – growing our audience – and the first stages of the conversion process. But for groups like The Times, which has been building its paid content strategy for years now, the focus is much farther down the funnel, on retention. Converting casual users to members or subscribers becomes a Sisyphean task if you have a high churn rate, a high rate at which you lose subscribers.

The Times is using AI to send personalised newsletters based on readers interests. Basically, they are using technology to send the right content at the right to time to subscribers on a level that would not be scalable if it relied simply on human editors. The halving of the churn rate was determined by comparing the churn of a group that received the newsletter generated by the AI and a control group.

Nicely for The Times, a £1m grant from Google’s News Initiative helped pay for the trial, which is a good reason for news organisations in North America to apply for the new challenge that Google is running there. I mentioned the challenge in yesterday’s newsletter.

Thanks for reading, and if you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do so easily on my Nuzzel profile page, and please, if you spot an international media business story I should include, flag it up to me on Twitter, @kevglobal.