How the WSJ used data to create a habit-forming reading environment
Anne Powell, John Wiley and Peter Gray of The Wall Street Journal write for the Nieman Report about how the business newspaper has used data to drive repeat readers.
Powell, Wiley and Gray write, “Our first step was to make an exhaustive list of all the things a member could do on our site. The list was quite long, including actions from Email Article and Play Puzzle to Build Watchlist and Comment. Next, we built a model to ingest all of these actions or ‘habits.’ We decided to borrow techniques commonly used in medicine by applying the Kaplan-Meier estimator to member retention. Essentially, the model compares the “survival rate” of members who have taken a particular action against the rate of those who did not. It looked at the impact of performing these actions within the first 100 days of membership and how it affected retention in 30-day increments over the course of their first year of tenure.
“Why did we only look at actions taken within the first 100 days? To try to eliminate the causation vs. correlation question. Focusing on our newest members ensures we’re looking at those who aren’t yet habituated. Any behavior they display marks the emergence of a new pattern rather than the presence of an existing one. The trends we observed held true for members of all tenures and pack types.
“Our big finding: There are many more actions beyond app downloading and newsletter subscribing that drove retention amongst members. We saw, in fact, that there are dozens of habits that clearly reduce churn.”
Read more here.