The State of Lifecycle Marketing in Journalism

By Michael Huard

As consumers look to get the latest news from sources they trust (in a time of distrust), the question becomes: how can modern technologies help journalism enhance the reader experience?

In Iterable’s latest User Engagement Report, News in the Age of Personalized Marketing, the answer to that question becomes clearer. The report, which analyzed the communications from 30 leading publications, shows how news outlets are utilizing lifecycle marketing strategies to interact with readers.

Here are the most significant findings from this report.

The News On-the-Go

A 24-hour news cycle means journalists are moving quickly and constantly. Consequently, it means subscribers want to stay in-the-know with breaking updates. By now, a majority of adults are consuming the news on their mobile devices.

In response, publications have shifted a sizable portion of their communications to mobile push notifications. Over the course of the three-week study, the daily average of mobile push messages doubled the frequency of emails per day (2.4 vs. 1.2) and 50.8% of all messages received came via mobile channels.

However, fewer than half of publications (36.7%) included imagery in their mobile push messaging. And given the fact that few publications had a mobile preference center for users to select the topics they’re most interested in, they’re creating an impersonal customer experience rather than an individualized curation of the news.

The Customer Journey

Iterable’s report focused on the different facets of a reader’s customer journey: welcome emails, newsletters, promotions, and cart abandonment messages. These campaigns, when used effectively, create a unified customer journey that fosters engagement and retention.

As the report shows, publications have not adopted the full scope of lifecycle marketing, with newsletters alone accounting for 83% of all emails received. Only 30% of publications sent a welcome email, 36% sent promotions, and 13% sent a cart abandonment message. Emails from these three vital campaigns accounted for less than 10% of emails received.

Modern growth marketing platforms make it easy to execute these campaigns at an individual level, fostering a close relationship with customers. This becomes crucial as Google and Facebook are taking up more and more of the digital ad revenue. Publications will have to look at more sustainable revenue models and marketing strategies that emphasize subscriptions.

News at the Right Time

Just like how consumers want the news on the device of their choosing, their experience—and a publication’s engagement metrics—would greatly improve if the news came at an optimal time for their schedule.

The research was conducted in the Pacific Time Zone, which meant messages from international and east coast-based publishers would often arrive at inopportune times. Roughly one-third of all emails arrived between midnight and 6:00 a.m. PST and another 40% arrived between 6:00 a.m. and noon PST.

Here is where AI joins the conversation for the future of lifecycle marketing at publications. Modern technologies feature AI capabilities that can determine the optimal send time at the individual level based on user behavior.

What Does It All Mean?

In general, it seems readers will get a fairly similar experience from any publication they deem worthy of a subscription. As personalization improves and experiences are more humanized, the way in which publications interact with their subscribers will become more and more influential.

The best way to get ahead is to adopt technologies that consolidate the cross-channel experience, ensuring readers enjoy cohesive communications whether they are on desktop or mobile.

For more insights into how publications are engaging their readers, download the full report here.

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