Digital News Readership and Subscription in the United States during COVID-19: A Longitudinal Analysis of Clickstream and Subscription Data from a Local News Site

Su Jung Kim*, Xiaohan Wang, Edward C. Malthouse

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic created a unique opportunity where local news sites play an essential role in their readers’ lives. Whether this increased level of news readership will help save the business of local journalism is a question that journalism scholars and professionals seek to answer. We propose a framework that demonstrates the relationships between local news consumption experiences, reading behaviours, and audience retention. We analysed individual-level clickstream data and payment records of subscribers of a regional newspaper to track the changes in their news reading behaviours and renewal decisions before and after the virus outbreak. We found that reading behaviours spiked since the beginning of the pandemic and gradually decreased but remained at a relatively higher level compared to the same period in previous years. We also found that reading news on COVID-19 or local issues and signing up for email newsletters for local news or sports positively influenced establishing the regularity of online local news consumption. The regularity of consuming local news on the site, in turn, positively impacted audience retention, demonstrating the importance of building the habit of online news consumption by providing the value that current and potential subscribers seek from their digital news consumption experiences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalDigital Journalism
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • audience engagement
  • audience retention
  • business of digital journalism
  • clickstream data
  • COVID-19
  • local news
  • news consumption
  • news experience
  • subscription data

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication

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