Life Changers as a group decide to subscribe because of a transition in their own circumstances, not because of something the newspaper itself recently did. In many ways, this is a group publishers can take clear steps to identify.

Many have just moved to the area, and they picked up their new local paper when they arrived. Others have had changes to a job or lifestyle that allows them more time or money to afford the subscription.

Life Changers are less dependent than others on discounts and special offers to decide to subscribe. They highly value local news and the usefulness of articles, and are also strongly motivated by supporting the financial health of local journalism. They like newspapers in a traditional sense and are especially likely to prefer print to digital.

They are more likely than others to consume news about local politics and government, national politics, and news about their neighborhood or town. Life Changers strongly value the core benefits of professional journalism, such as providing reliable and factual information, helping them stay informed and be better citizens, dealing with all sides fairly, and being willing to admit mistakes.

When asked why they subscribed, Life Changers offer answers such as “I had to cancel my subscription briefly, but as soon as my financial situation improved, I re-subscribed” or “As soon as I moved back I started subscribing again.”

Life Changers include 16 percent of total respondents.

“I am new to the area,” says one of the Life Changers. “I want to learn about my new home area.”

Publisher strategies for Life Changers

Those who subscribe via this path are distinctive in that they are motivated by factors that are outside a newspaper’s editorial or marketing and promotion efforts. They are buying because of changes that have happened in their life, and their subscription meets a newly created need.

The challenge here is not to convince them of the value of the subscription itself or entice them with promotional pricing. Instead, the challenge is finding these people at the right time and taking the steps to engage these readers through messaging that is customized for the subscriber group.

Publishers should target readers who are new to the geographic area, recent graduates, retirees, and readers with a new job or promotion. Additionally, they should seek partnerships with local organizations or groups, such as realtors, colleges, or employers, to offer discounted subscriptions. Publishers can rent or trade mail and email marketing lists with various groups in town, and segment marketing efforts accordingly, including direct mail and email campaigns.

Some examples of this thinking can be found at national and international outlets. Abroad, the Financial Times recently extended free access to 16- to 19-year-old students, many of whom are likely wrapping up secondary education and beginning college or work. Domestically, the New York Times is beginning a newsletter targeting college students and “people starting their careers,” which would provide the Times with email addresses for a young cohort of readers. The technology business publication The Information  unveiled a “young professionals” plan, which offers a five-year half-off discount to people under 30 and is complemented by a Facebook group to allow young professionals to “trade notes about careers, share job opportunities, and more.”

Some local newspapers are also finding ways to engage with people who are more transient to the area and move back and forth regularly, such as retired “snowbirds.” These are typically print subscribers who might stop and start their paid subscription as they come and go, engaging only with the free content while away from the area. One publisher created a targeted campaign to keep the paid relationship intact by showing online access as part of their paid subscription and increased retention in this group as a result.   

Some publishers take advantage of life changes that are predictable, such as law school graduates taking their state’s bar exam. Legal magazines and newspapers hold local events for those attorneys who have just passed their bar exam. This gives the publisher exposure to a key audience—up-and-coming attorneys who have both the need and the means for professional publications. 

Up close: Who are the Life Changers?

The largest crossover between Life Changers and other paths is with the Locally Engaged (28 percent of Life Changers are also in the Locally Engaged path). This shows that many Life Changers share the Locally Engaged group’s general affinity for following local news, and were just waiting for the circumstances in their lives to change.

Life Changers often say they became ready to subscribe because they wanted access to news about their local community, had noticed a number of useful/interesting articles, had recently moved to area, or their personal situation had changed.

Notably, Life Changers are less discount-motivated than most subscribers.

Life Changers Other subscribers
I wanted access to news about my local community 81% 56%
I recently moved to the area 77% 5%
I noticed a number of especially useful or interesting articles 50% 36%
I wanted to support local journalism 43% 29%
My personal situation changed, and I then had more time to use it (e.g., retired or kids moved out of house) 28% 5%
My personal situation changed, and I had more money to spend on the subscription 16% 6%

Data Source: Question: There are a lot of reasons why a person may decide to subscribe to a news source. Here is a list of factors that might have crossed your mind as you considered subscribing to [SOURCE]. How important was each of these factors as you considered subscribing to [SOURCE]?

Media Insight Project

The biggest trigger for Life Changers that led them to finally subscribe is having recently moved to the area or other life changes. Discounts and promotions are also common triggers, though less prevalent than among other subscribers.

Life Changers Other subscribers
I recently moved to the area. 76% 4%
I had a change in my life, such as getting a new job, retiring, or graduating from school, and I decided it was time. 37% 7%
I saw a discount, free trial, or promotional offer, and it led me to sign up. 36% 46%
I wanted discounts and coupons that would help me save money. 17% 22%

Data Source: Question: While people may be thinking about subscribing to a news source for a while, there can be a specific moment or reason that serves as a tipping point when someone makes the decision to subscribe. Which, if any, of the following triggered your final decision to subscribe to [SOURCE]?

Media Insight Project

Life Changers tend to follow hard news topics, especially about their local area but also about the nation and beyond. The topics Life Changers most often use their newspaper for are local politics and government, national politics and government, news about their neighborhood or town, and business and the economy. Life Changers are more likely than other subscribers to follow each of these topics.

Life Changers Other subscribers
Local politics or government 58% 44%
National politics or government 41% 34%
My neighborhood or suburban town 25% 20%
Business and the economy 24% 22%
Art and culture 18% 13%

Data Source: Question: Here are some common news and information topics. Which of these news topics do you follow most often or closely using [SOURCE]?

Media Insight Project

Large majorities of Life Changers value their newspaper for being informative, unbiased, and transparent. They say the biggest reasons they use their newspaper is it helps them get reliable and factual information and to stay informed and be a better citizen, that it deals fairly with all sides, and is willing to admit its mistakes. Life Changers are more likely than other subscribers to cite these reasons.

Life Changers Other subscribers
Helps me get reliable and accurate factual information 87% 76%
Helps me stay informed to be a better citizen 78% 60%
It is willing to admit its mistakes 77% 68%
It deals fairly with all sides 77% 67%
It acts as a check on political leaders and other people in power 72% 60%

Data Source: Question: People use news for many reasons. When it comes to the biggest reasons you use [SOURCE], how important to you is it that it…?

Media Insight Project

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