As third-party cookies decline, and search and social media channels become less effective for growth, gaining a deeper understanding of subscribers and potential subscribers is an opportunity for media companies of all sizes. This deeper understanding begins with the collection and appropriate use of first-party data.

During this session at LMA Fest in Chicago, the panel shed light on the practical ways news businesses can harness and optimize first-party data to boost revenue and enhance customer interaction.

Understanding data: First, third, and zero

Panelist Daniel Williams, CEO of BlueLena, described the types of data as:

  • First-party data: Information gathered through website activities such as pixel tracking.
  • Third-party data: Licensed data appended to first-party data.
  • Zero-party data: Data that users willingly provide. Examples include newsletter sign ups, contest entries, and site registrations.

The opportunity

The current moment, Williams said, offers news organizations the opportunity to capture data directly and use it to form relationships. This starts with converting anonymous website visitors into registered users.

One key takeaway for broadcasters is the potential of newsletters, panelists said. People love connecting with familiar TV personalities, like their favorite meteorologists. Newsletters can serve as a bridge to foster this connection, while serving as effective data collection tools.

Subscription acquisition strategies

When it comes to acquiring subscriptions, knowing the emails of active subscribers and registered users can be a game-changer. Toby Collodora, senior manager of engagement and retention at Star Tribune Media Co., highlighted that company’s success with paid strategies to acquire new customer emails. This strategy led to a 12-times return on investment and $18,000 in new revenue.

A paid strategy to acquire users is going to be more effective if you have already identified the emails of your active subscribers and registered users, Collodora said.

Reader surveys

One strategy BlueLena employs with clients is reader surveys. They provide not only valuable insights, but also an opportunity to showcase the value a news organization offers to both new and existing customers, Williams said.

Panelists agreed that, even with a paywall, businesses can build reader revenue by conveying their mission continuously, and reminding new customers of the value they bring to their lives.


What metrics does a local media business need to focus on to ensure success?

No surprise, it’s more than any single metric — and what you measure depends largely on the goal.

Clicks, revenue, audience growth, subscribers who activate digital subscriptions have all been worth measuring at some point, the panel agreed.

When newsletter readers go from engaged to unengaged, Collodora advised, it’s important to have criteria and strategies in place, such as targeting them with a re-engagement campaign.

Understanding your audience is an ongoing process, the panel emphasized. And the ability to communicate confidently the data that informs your strategies — to your board, colleagues or leadership — will place your business in the best position to succeed.