News Corp Australia’s Project Heartbeat uses AI to determine the “health” of subscribers

By Richard Wiles

News Corp Australia

Surry Hills, NSW, Australia

With increased pressure on retention for subscription businesses everywhere, News Corp Australia took the unusual step of fusing the art of engagement messaging with the science of machine learning and data.

As News Corp Australia’s subscriber base exceeds 1 million, addressing this base as one singular population with a single message or programme has become antiquated. Traditional one-size-fits-all messaging no longer proves sufficient.

Project Heartbeat was conceived to provide personalised “subscriber healthcare” treatment: A highly targeted, creative engagement programme designed to address the specific concerns of high-risk subscribers in hopes of preventing churn. 

Beginning the journey

Project Heartbeat’s concept begins with a diagnosis made through an AI-generated risk profile. Audience members are mapped, based on their likelihood to churn, and placed across a  “cradle-to-grave” lifecycle breakdown. This encompasses infancy, general practice, specialised treatment, acute care, and emergency response.

Project Heartbeat maps the health of subscribers to determine which retention measures need to be taken.
Project Heartbeat maps the health of subscribers to determine which retention measures need to be taken.

Building beyond traditional churn prediction models, the AI engine behind Heartbeat not only focuses on subscribers’ risk profiling but delves deeper into the why. It can identify the chief cause of dissatisfaction or elevated risk levels. This allows for not only specifically timed intervention but specifically targeted messaging and actions to address each user’s individual “why.”

Once a subscriber is diagnosed and a programme is prescribed, Project Heartbeat’s AI and orchestration technologies can leverage not only the physical and visible cues of consumers but also calculated and predictive data points.

Personally timed and specifically tailored retention programmes are deployed across channels. Notifications, on-network interception, social advertising, and call centre channels are all deployed with the coordinated goal of  reducing cancellation rates.

Saving subscribers

By leveraging predictive AI and delivering these specifically tailored messages to the right audiences at the right time, the objective of Project Heartbeat is not to provide an extended  “saves” programme but to target the moment before a user resolves to cancel. As they begin leaning away from the product, bringing them back in before a firm decision has been made significantly reduces cancellation rates.

Since its launch in mid-2022, Project Heartbeat has demonstrated promising results in identifying subscribers’ propensity to churn and implementing targeted solutions. In a pre-production trial, 80,000 high-risk users were identified as having a limited breadth of readership. Over three weeks, 50% of these users received the targeted remedial programme, while the remaining half received no intervention.

The trial’s conclusion revealed a 32% reduction in churn among the users who received targeted content promotion. This initial success prompted the implementation of additional trials, addressing issues such as price sensitivity and declining breadth of engagement. These experiments are now being integrated into News Corp Australia’s permanent business operations.

Project Heartbeat showed tremendous success in pre-production trials.
Project Heartbeat showed tremendous success in pre-production trials.

Extending on current engagement efforts, Project Heartbeat will develop the blueprint for subscriber lifecycle management and deliver coordinated actions to leverage growing stores and sophistication of consumer intelligence.

With more programme experimentation currently underway, Project Heartbeat continues to refine and expand its personalised approach to subscriber retention. By leveraging sophisticated AI technology and a data-driven focus,  News Corp Australia’s Project Heartbeat sets a new playbook for addressing subscriber churn in the digital media industry.

About Richard Wiles

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