Critical Publisher Benchmarks for Digital Subscription Success

Performance of Newspaper Publishers Across the Subscriber Journey

Telecom, Media & Technology (TMT) | Corporate Finance & Restructuring

October 21, 2019

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Charting a Path to Sustainability: The GNI Subscriptions Lab

In April 2019, the Google News Initiative partnered with FTI Consulting and Local Media Association to launch the GNI Subscriptions Lab, an intensive cohort-based strategy and enablement program for 10 news publishers in the U.S. and Canada. The goal of the Lab is to develop a sustainable and thriving business model for local news — powered by digital subscriptions. Over nine months, participating publishers are benchmarking their digital subscriptions businesses against the Lab cohort and industry, defining short- and long-term strategic roadmaps, and designing and launching optimization experiments. Finding a path forward for digital subscriptions is critical to the future of news publishers in markets large and small.

Ten newspaper publishers were selected to participate in the Lab, representing a cross-section of the local news industry in North America, with a mix of corporate-owned and independent community and metro titles. Participating publishers began at different stages of digital maturity yet shared a commitment to putting subscriptions at the center of their long-term strategic plans.


The GNI Subscriptions Lab benchmarking exercise was focused on identifying the core set of key performance indicators (KPIs) that measure the health and maturity of a digital news subscription business. The KPIs spanned the subscriber journey and were selected to give publishers — both in the Lab and throughout the industry — a framework for better understanding their overall performance, identifying gaps to goal performance, and prioritizing optimization efforts.

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