Mediahuis creates audience engagement teams to drive strategy

By Paula Felps


Nashville, Tennessee, USA


With four national news titles in Belgium reaching 2.1 million people a day, Mediahuis is in the same position as many publishers: as print declines, its digital subscriber base is growing. And, as that continues, digital subscriptions have become “a really interesting part of the job” for Hanne Hendrikx, manager, customer retention for Mediahuis.

“The fact that we now can know, can see how people use the product, how long they read it, what they read, which topics they are interested in … that’s really the part that enriches our job,” she said. “We now have way more information about our customers and how they use us and how we can mean more to them.”

That has led to a stronger engagement strategy which became a primary focus in 2020. Although early in the year they measured things like how many days a week a subscriber used the product, they didn’t have clear KPIs. So they set out to create a strategy that would increase engagement and reduce churn.

Mediahuis began using growth teams to drive engagment and retain more subscribers.
Mediahuis began using growth teams to drive engagment and retain more subscribers.

Team efforts

Mediahuis’ approach was to create an agile multidisciplinary engagement team that focused on four different elements:

  • Recent subscribers.
  • Onboarding.
  • Customer satisfaction.
  • Pro-active calls from the customer service department.

They also created a churn prediction model and found that engagement directly correlates with churn: “In our top 20 churn drivers, seven of them are related to engagement. In almost half of the churn reasons, engagement plays a role — so that has proven to be important for us.”

By segmenting readers into four groups — fan, discoverer, strayed, and lost — and developing KPIs for each group, Mediahuis was able to get a clearer picture of what to focus on to improve engagement for the different users. The multidisciplinary aspect is key, as it allows members of different departments to join and leave the team as needed.

“At this moment in the engagement team, we have people from the retention team and from each of the four brand teams so that all brands are represented. We have two people from the data team, people from customer service, and also people from the technical team. And everyone has a clear role in our growth.”

The focus of the engagement team is to help readers use the content, and there’s also a strong emphasis on customer service.

“I would say that customer service is really important for us because they’re the direct link to the customer, and they can give us a lot of information about a customer, but they can also directly put our ideas into action to customers,” she said.

The engagement team looks at the four different groups of customers and crafts different ways to help engage each group. Customers in the “lost” group, for instance, are given guidance to help them get onboarded, while the emphasis for people in the “discoverer” or “strayed” groups is to get them to use the content more often and take advantage of all their subscription offers.

“We use different tools such as newsletters, social campaigns, and pushes,” she said. “We try to get the e-paper more into their attention. And also we try to serve them podcasts or puzzles just to make them use their subscription more often.”

Proper onboarding is essential to making sure the right data is collected and to boost engagement.
Proper onboarding is essential to making sure the right data is collected and to boost engagement.

Giving customers a good start

Onboarding for new subscribers has become much more sophisticated as they have gone deeper into the KPIs and engagement strategies.

“A good start is half the battle,” Hendrikx said. Because of that, they added a customer satisfaction questionnaire as part of onboarding and created service goals for new subscribers. While their onboarding used to take about a month, now it takes six weeks and Mediahuis closely accompanies readers every step of the way.

“In those six weeks, you need to get the right data from the customer. We want to accompany readers through our digital products, make them download our apps, and set up their preferences for newsletters, for pushes,” she said. “And we would like them to get familiar with all the content … and also the audio and puzzles that we offer.”

The scheduled onboarding flow has been successful and has benefited from having multidisciplinary team members contributing insights from different departments. But they remain aware of the need to stay fluid and flexible to the changing needs of customers.

“Onboarding became one of our most important processes in the customer journey [in 2020],” she said. “Within Mediahuis, the voice of the customer gets louder and louder each year. But we also learn and change things every week. So, every week we get new insights and we make new decisions.”

This case study originally appeared in the INMA report, The Guide to Smart Data Strategy in Media.

About Paula Felps

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