Stacy Lynch is the Senior Director of Audience Analytics, Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Cox Media Group. Lynch and her team provide audience analytics that uses transactional data, web analytics, sales data, market data and a variety of other sources to understand consumers and inform strategy. The News Media Alliance caught up with Lynch about her work, how she sees the future of media and more.
What drew you to working in news media?
I grew up in Denver having subscriptions to daily newspapers and my family was always interested in news. We even talked about how lucky we were to have two newspapers in our town. When I went to college, I majored in English literature and Spanish literature and I worked in journalism, then I went into the Northwestern Journalism program. I then took another left turn into data and research but I was always drawn to newspapers and writing.
What is the most exciting thing you are currently working on?
We’re doing so many cool things with data to understand how people use our products and who our customers are. It feels like we’re doing something new and cool every day, things we once wished we could do but couldn’t. Now we have so much data, so much computing power to really understand what people want, not just what they say they want.
Newspapers are in an exciting position as far as data and knowing our customers. There are plenty of digital companies that don’t know who is using their digital products and would like to have a street address for someone who does. We have all that data and it allows us to know our customers so much better. I am so excited about the potential of connecting who our customers are with how they use our websites, apps, social media content and print newspapers.
What has surprised you the most about your work leading audience analytics at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Cox Media Group?
If you compare the newspaper industry from the early 2000s to now, it’s so different in our appetite for change and ability to be responsive. We used to spend months analyzing a potential pricing event for our subscribers. Now, we identify a pool of customers who have increased potential for price increases and we take action within weeks.
We can track outcomes, try A/B tests, make tweaks and see results all in the time we used to spend on analysis. On the digital product front, so much is done with data coming back from our social media tracking – we’re able to recognize trends and adjust content strategy so much more quickly. My team really works on 90-day strategy cycles where we are constantly adjusting based on new insights from our markets and customers. I wish we could move even faster.
If you could change one thing about the newspaper media industry, what would it be?
I wish newspapers in general could be more honest when our products and services are not as good as they need to be. I’ve seen this for years – even 15 years ago when I was doing research about newspapers with the Readership Institute. I think data doesn’t lie – we can tell when something is working and when something isn’t. But having the data and taking action sometimes don’t go together. In some ways we’ve gotten better, but our changing business model demands we be even more honest with ourselves. We serve a demanding readership who has certain expectations and we need to operate like a premium product. Being just okay isn’t good enough anymore.
How do you see the future of news media?
I’m excited about what the next five years will bring. I think we’re through the worst of the fragmentation of news media where every time you turned around, there were more look-alike competitors out there. I also think our deep understanding of our readers and our markets will become increasingly valuable – we literally know our customers as people and there are precious few businesses who can say that.