Reader personas: Using multi-dimensional user personas to improve retention

Using personas for design and product development work is part of the practice, but Better News highlights how the Detroit Free Press is using multi-dimensional personas in its retention efforts. This example touches on two themes of this newsletter for the year: product development and retention. The underlying idea is pretty obvious that people can’t be pigeonholed into simple demographic or even psychographic categories. They demonstrate how they took this idea and put it in service of building loyalty and habit in their audiences. 

And, of course, in 2023, almost any idea seems to be touched in some way with AI, and frankly, this is also pretty obvious. How can AI be put into service to serve up rich related stories for a reader based on their individual interests rather than metadata-based related content modules? 

And The Audiencers at Poool review a new series of benchmarks to measure subscription performance. 
Plus, in addition to a bit of industry news, I highlight a few practical pieces that flew by including one about the big shift for Google Analytics users from UA to GA4. The deadline is looming. And some of the shift is down to privacy issues, which is highlighted in another piece on how media agencies are building privacy expertise this year. 

And thanks to David Boyle for the photo of a man reading a newspaper in New York City

Next-level persona work

This is a deep case study that highlights exactly what this team did with their multi-dimensional persona work. They not only developed personas based on interests but also used a basic retention model that tied specific KPIs to their likelihood to keep their subscriptions. The result was data that challenged some basic assumptions about a core audience, readers who followed the local baseball team. 

AI recommendation systems are being used by 70% of publishers, according to the Reuters Institute. This is a good summary of some research done into how personas were affecting recommendation systems, and it highlighted the personas that publishers are using to surface more relevant content for audiences. 

An analysis of digital subscription success using a digital subscriber/1000 pageviews metric. After explaining why he used that metric, he goes on to compare the performance of different subscription models such as freemium, metered paywall, hard paywall and voluntary payments. 

Get smarter: The switch to GA4, challenging the narrative around AI and why ad shops are focusing on privacy

The switch to GA4 is happening in July, and the executive editor at a newspaper in the US reviews what they learned in the switch. 

The narrative about generative AI has quickly devolved into one driven by moral panic about it replacing journalists, and this piece challenges us to think more deeply about AI from an academic perspective. 

Privacy is one of the major regulatory themes this year as it has been for the last several years. Media agencies are beefing up their privacy talent to respond. 

Industry News: Publishers still seeing growth but layoffs continue in 2023

A FIPP report from the end of 2022 found that publishers continue to see digital subscription growth. My wife has just launched a newsletter on Substack, and it’s very intriguing to see growth figures broken out by the platform. 

They are reorganising their ad business to focus on the demand side and getting out of the supply side, which makes a lot of sense. The ad and adtech space is so crowded. It is the epitome of a red ocean space, which is why the cuts so swiftly in a downturn. 
While Yahoo feels back of mind these days with the rise of other platforms, it still pulls in $8bn a year in revenue. Although this reporting triggers one of my beefs about business reporting: Saying that the company is profitable and then quoting a revenue figure is conflating two things. A company can pull in $8bn in revenue and still not break even. 

This amounts to a 5% cut in their headcount. The company missed their quarterly estimates due to all of the usual suspects in the news business in a softening economy. 

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