Churn, Churn, Churn: Strategies for Retention

By Saba, Jennifer | Editor & Publisher, July 1, 2007 | Go to article overview

Churn, Churn, Churn: Strategies for Retention


Saba, Jennifer, Editor & Publisher


Circulation may be taking the Nestea plunge, but there is some good news in the tea leaves. Churn -- or the percent of subscriber turnover -- is falling at newspapers across the country. That's crucial, because if newspapers can't add readers, they need to at least hang onto the ones they have.

John Murray, vice president of circulation at the Newspaper Association of America, did a back-of-envelope calculation from the March 2007 FAS-FAX and found that stops are down and retention is up. "They are selling fewer orders, but when they sell them they are making sure they count," he says.

There are a number of factors in this, explains Jeff Walsh, director of audit compliance at ValueMags: "A lot of newspapers right now are cutting off high-risk channels, like door crews, telemarketers -- high-pressure sales that have a high turn rate. The ABC scandals over the last couple of years showed that those channels could be manipulated more easily."

Automatic credit or debit card payments via EZPay is another way of keeping hold of subscribers. Gyms, magazines, and cable companies have been using this method of payment to great effect for years.

Mark Henschen, circulation director at the North County Times in Escondido, Calif., swears by it. When he first arrived at the paper 11 years ago, churn was at 134%. "That level is horrible," he says. "The only way I can describe it is running uphill at a 90-degree angle. You are never going to get up, but your legs are churning like mad."

He decided then and there the paper was going to start using EZPay aggressively, and now churn has been reduced to about 49%. An impressive 72% of his home subscribers use the payment system.

Henschen enticed readers by offering deep discounts exclusively for EZPay users. …

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