USA Today Network finds quick success with subscriber engagement, retention programme

By Amy Shioji


McClean, Virginia, USA


To deepen relationships with its audience and improve subscriber engagement and retention, USA Today Network launched a new onboarding and engagement programme in 2018. This provided print and digital customers with an overview of exciting benefits, content, unique experiences, and services available through its brands.

Audience insights from the Network’s enterprise Voice of the Customer programme identified many of the biggest subscriber pain points and drivers of churn, which were then used to drive improvements to the customer experience through product, service, and communications enhancements. Customised to various audience segments, the new onboarding and engagement programme features content, benefits, and account-related features and functionality most appealing to each segment.

Voice of the Customer helped the USA Today Network pinpoint pain points to reduce churn.
Voice of the Customer helped the USA Today Network pinpoint pain points to reduce churn.

Consumer behavioural analysis shows the frequency in which a subscriber engages with digital platforms plays a key role in subscribers’ likelihood to continue their subscriptions. As a result, the onboarding and engagement series was designed to improve both the breadth and depth of digital engagement. There was a specific focus on informing customers of benefits such as newsletters, podcasts, mobile apps, and a loyalty programme providing exclusive content and discounts from national partners to encourage ongoing, repeat digital usage.

The subscriber engagement programme also includes key account-related communications encouraging customers to activate digital access, log in to the Web site, and enroll in automatic billing — all of which have shown to improve engagement and typically result in higher retention rates.

Since launching the onboarding and engagement series, a handful of updates were made based on initial performance and consumer feedback. The team discovered more literal and transactional messaging performed best, so creative and copy was updated to be clearer. Advanced personalisation and segmentation was also added to increase relevance.

When subscribers mentioned having difficulty finding account management tools, a “How-To” series and videos were added, educating customers on various self-service features. These communications inform subscribers of their ability to complete common customer service actions online, such as placing a temporary delivery hold, paying a bill, or updating a delivery address.

This has helped increase online self-service usage, reducing cost-to-serve and measurable customer effort. Auto bill pay enrollment has increased by 22%, and the number of online bill payments increased 19% year-over-year in 2018, with overall self-service usage increasing 10% year-over-year.

To measure ongoing digital engagement as an early predictor of retention, the USA Today Network developed a digital usage model scoring users based on the frequency, type, and level of digital engagement. Using digital usage as a primary engagement metric and a key leading indicator for retention, the Network has seen as high as a 10 percentage point increase in digital usage for subscribers who received the new onboarding series versus a control group.

At a relationship level, new digital subscribers who have received the onboarding and engagement series report higher satisfaction and net promoter scores. Subscribers who indicate being “satisfied” in ongoing surveys show an eight percentage point improvement in retention over 52 weeks, which represents a substantial revenue opportunity.

About Amy Shioji

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