What Drives People to Pay for Local Journalism

Medill’s Spiegel Research Center (SRC), a leader in consumer and audience-based research that drives financial outcomes, is analyzing many terabytes of anonymous data about reader behavior and customer motivation at three Learning Labs – the Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle and Indianapolis Star. The goal: Identify what content and behaviors drive consumers to engage with and pay for local news.

Associated Faculty and Staff

Ed Malthouse

Research Director

Malthouse is the Erastus Otis Haven Professor of Integrated Marketing Communications at Medill. He also has an appointment in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Sciences' Department of Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences. Malthouse is an expert in applied statistics, market research and media marketing.

Tom Collinger

Executive Director

Collinger, former Associate Dean and Medill IMC Department Chair, is also an associate professor and an expert in integrated marketing communications; direct, database and e-commerce marketing management; customer loyalty; customer relationship management; and channel integration. Collinger also is president of The TC Group, a marketing strategy firm.

Yasaman Kamyab Hessary

Post-doctoral Fellow

Kamyab, a post-doctoral fellow at Spiegel, received her Ph.D. in Computer Science from University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Her dissertation explores agent-based computational economics models with emphasis on herding behavior.


Articles about What Drives People to Pay for Local Journalism

  • Medill Study Identifies ‘Paradigm Shift’ in How Local News Serves Readers Building Habit—Not Page Views—Matters Most For Keeping Subscribers, Data Analysis Finds

    As online advertising lags, many local news organizations are shifting their strategy to focus on reader-based revenue models, especially digital subscriptions, as a path to financial sustainability and greater community service. That pivot is redefining the goals for many news outlets. Rather than chasing viral “clicks” to boost ad revenue, they are trying to establish their value to subscribers. New strategies require new insights into local digital audiences. That’s why a major new Northwestern University...

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  • Medill’s Subscriber Data Analysis: How We Reached Conclusions

    The Spiegel Research Center at Northwestern University analyzed 13 terabytes of data from the Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle and Indianapolis Star for its study, which was conducted in the fall of 2018 as part of the Medill Local News Initiative. Data scientists at Spiegel integrated audience data and subscriber information from each of the three news organizations. This allowed researchers to trace anonymized, individual behaviors of people who kept and cancelled digital subscriptions. This cross-platform data integration...

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  • 3 Takeaways on Medill’s Subscriber Data Analysis

    As local news outlets find their advertising model faltering, earning revenue from readers has emerged as a more promising path to sustainability. That’s why a Northwestern University study takes a new approach: Instead of focusing on the page-view metrics common in an ad-based model, this research tracks what keeps subscribers paying. The study, part of the Medill Local News Initiative at the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications, has crunched 13 terabytes of...

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  • A  Paradox Emerges: Why Aren’t Avid Readers More Likely to Keep Subscriptions?

    When Northwestern University researchers analyzed subscriber data from three major metro news outlets, they identified coverage areas and reader behaviors that correlated with customers keeping their subscriptions. Two key ones were a regular reading habit and consumption of unique local content. But two other behaviors jumped out because they showed no correlation with subscriber retention. In a possible paradox, people who read many stories and read them for longer were no more likely to keep...

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