Using data science to reduce churn, engage readers at Globe and Mail

By Zen Habito

The Globe and Mail

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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When The Globe and Mail launched its paywall in 2012, it started the transformational shift toward becoming a digital business. Over the last eight years The Globe has assembled a talented data science team, started commercialising a suite of proprietary digital products and services, and has consistently achieved 20% year-over-year growth in the number of digital subscribers.

Reducing churn and achieving growth required teams across The Globe and Mail to work together.
Reducing churn and achieving growth required teams across The Globe and Mail to work together.

Achieving this success not only required process and system changes but a change in culture. Business units had to think about multiple platforms, work more collaboratively on projects and products, and create solutions benefiting both the business and our subscribers.

Knowing we needed the joint expertise of our colleagues to reach our goals, the loyalty and retention team partnered with three key groups to positively impact digital subscriber churn and engagement:

  1. The data science and database marketing group to engage with individual subscribers in a more meaningful way.
  2. The editorial group to curate content for digital platforms and bring content to life.
  3. The IT infrastructure and digital group to build a solid platform to provide leading customer experience.

For the purpose of this post, I’ll focus on work done with the data science and database marketing group. Our data science team had an extensive amount of data on our audience, the loyalty and retention team had a number of hypotheses, and the database marketing team had the tools to get the message to our customers. Together we were able to develop campaigns that allowed us to better understand our audience.

Here is what the data science group built and some of our results:

  • SophiThis analytical tool developed in house measures real-time content success. It informs us of the content most valued by our subscribers and allows us to easily identify articles to promote to subscribers. We used Sophi to select articles featured in a weekly roundup e-mail that reduced churn by 12%.
  • Propensity model: We were able to identify who, and, more importantly, who not, to engage with. We now avoid e-mailing subscribers with the highest propensity churn after testing resulted in a 99% increase in churn for this segment.
  • User profile API: This API gives us the ability to put the “right message, right time, and right person” model into practice on our Web site. Based on the content type and journalists a subscriber has engaged with over a 90-day period, we presented similar content or a member benefit to increase subscriber engagement. When we featured curated guides related to a previously read article, we saw an increase of 9.835% in visits. Featuring related newsletters had an increase of 181% in newsletter signups. Promoting more content by specific journalists saw an increase of 767% in article visits.

We continue to work together to better understand our audience as we test, learn, and optimise how best to communicate what is most relevant and valuable to each individual subscriber. The business continues to try to ask the right questions, and the data and tools are helping us find the right answers.

About Zen Habito