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The Economist

The Economist came to Lytics with a two-fold need: Increase subscribers, and deliver a personalized content experience to each reader. With Lytics, they can aggregate visitor data from any source, create a profile of likely subscribers, and target only their best prospects across all channels. And with the Lytics Content Affinity Engine they deliver articles that are contextually relevant in that moment. The result? A 4x increase in subscription revenue. As one Economist marketer put it, “nothing short of spectacular."
“The results of the partnership with Lytics has been nothing short of spectacular,” Lok said. “Ultimately, what was really important for us was the capability of the team. They are partners in implementation, in ideas, and in execution. They've played a key role in The Economist's ability to quadruple our subscription revenue over the last three years. The capability that's there or the possibility with Lytics and The Economist combined together is probably limitless as we move into the future.”

It’s no secret—it’s hardly even news—that news media are undergoing a massive digital disruption.

The Economist, whose first issue date was in 1843, has some experience in weathering change. A global media company and news website, the publication offers authoritative insight and opinion on international news, politics, business, finance, science, and technology. In an age when readers have unlimited choice in where they get their news, The Economist knew it needed to stay relevant to current subscribers and continue to attract new subscribers.

In order to do this, the publication had to have a deep understanding of its audience segments, the topic they were interested in, all in real-time and at scale.

“We have a mandate to be more customer-centric,” said Steve Lok, Global Head of Martech. “We want to be able to identify, programmatically, an individual customer and understand who they are, understand their relationship to our publication, what they’ve done on our site, and what they might be looking for next.”

In addition to focusing on the digital news product itself, The Economist team experimented with various marketing technologies before they decided on a “hub-and-spoke” model, putting customer data at the center of the hub. Once they hit on this approach, it made sense to put a customer data platform (CDP) in place.

“The Economist marketing technology strategy is all about being contextually relevant to the reader in the moment,” said Lok. “We need to be able to combine content with the customer so we have a technology stack that's built around these two concepts. We're able to serve a piece of information to a user based on who they are, where they are, and what they're interested in.”

Increase reader engagement with content affinity

In order to increase time-on-site and overall reader engagement, The Economist created content hubs, or individual pages that display digital content based on a reader’s interest for particular news topics (e.g., Brexit, Trump, a particular political race, etc.).

Using Lytics content affinity engine plus data science, The Economist was also able to:

  • Display offers based on the reader’s subscription status and predictive engagement score, meaning their likelihood to subscribe, based on other readers with behaviors like theirs
  • Offer featured content based not just on topic interest but also using behavioral scoring, giving readers the type of content in the way they want to read it
  • One campaign for a free “Back to School Megatech” eBook produced a 9% click-through-rate and onsite conversations rates were 5-10x higher for Lytics targeted audiences

Smart and precise targeting to capture a new generation of readers

Reaching new readers, and getting them to subscribe, is vital to the longevity of The Economist’s business. In order to reach people who were in the early stages of developing their news and information preferences, the publication launched an awareness and subscription adoption digital campaign, with a specific focus on university students.

The Economist created a specific audience segment in Lytics with these characteristics:

  • Has an email address ending in .edu
  • An IP address from a U.S. or U.K. college or university
  • A title of student, intern, or graduate student

Then, using predictive modeling in Lytics, The Economist added to the segment the characteristic high propensity to become a premium subscriber, and then excluded current subscribers. This way the publication ensured current subscribers would not be annoyed by offers that didn’t apply to them, and only students with the highest likelihood to subscribe were targeted, saving ad spend.

This model was then used to power a multichannel campaign in Facebook, Snapchat, and Google Ads. And the smarter audience segmentation paid off. The campaign delivered a 37% improvement on return on ad spend compared to previous campaigns, and 35% of ad-driven subscriptions were millennials.

How to ensure ROI: Crawl, walk, run

Given that many organizations have as many as 90 tools in their martech stack, adopting yet another can seem daunting—and skeptics may not see the value. For companies who want to be more customer-centric and put customer data at the center of their stack, he suggests they find one or two small, winnable business cases that will take no longer than a few months to prove out, and focus there.

This approach paid off for The Economist. After rollout, the return on the investment they’d made in the Lytics CDP took just a month.

“Have a plan and a strategy to talk about at the ready,” Lok said. “Typically, there is one team that leads the charge at the beginning and once you get started, be ready to steer that momentum. Your ROI will always drive stakeholder buy-in. ”

“Spectacular” results through partnership

In addition to the great results on specific campaigns, The Economist saw remarkable improvement to other key metrics:

  • Subscriber acquisition: Decreased cost per acquisition by 80%
  • Visitor engagement: Grew digital subscriptions by 3x with behavioral scoring and predictive modeling
  • Content context: Increased time onsite with articles powered by data science-based user affinities

The Economist attributes the success of these programs not only to the Lytics CDP, but also to the Lytics Customer Success and Services teams.

“The results of the partnership with Lytics has been nothing short of spectacular,” Lok said. “Ultimately, what was really important for us was the capability of the team. They are partners in implementation, in ideas, and in execution. They've played a key role in The Economist's ability to quadruple our subscription revenue over the last three years. The capability that's there or the possibility with Lytics and The Economist combined together is probably limitless as we move into the future.”

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