5 Answers with Nikhil Hunshikatti

Nikhil-HunshikattiFive Answers is a weekly series that features a member of the newspaper industry answering five questions. If you’d like to participate, email kirsten@newsmediaalliance.org.

Nikhil Hunshikatti came to the Columbus Dispatch as the Director of Marketing & Research. Now he is the Vice President of Marketing. Previously, he worked at the Chicago Tribune, Nielsen and Ogilvy & Mather. He attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

1. What drew you into news media?

Professionally generated news carries a lot of credibility and is the most trustworthy source of news and information available. Professional news media plays a key role in bringing to light issues and conversations that are important to the community.

In today’s age, where pretty much everyone with a smartphone or blog is a”content generator,” I strongly believe that news media and professional journalism are critical to sifting through all the noise and bringing truth to the forefront.

2. What are you working on to increase subscription retention?

Working with Mather Economics we have identified multiple processes to improve subscriber retention. Some are under way already and some are in the pipeline. Here are a few examples:

  • We have developed a payment history analysis to help us communicate with subscribers when they deviate from their “normal” payment process. We have seen a 12 percent lift in payments and reduced stops.
  • Using customer lifetime value analysis, we have created segmented scripting for our customer service reps and improved our stop-save rates, as well as optimized for “saved revenue” by not dropping to the lowest possible stop-save rate.
  • We identified that increased digital engagement for print subscribers could result in up to 15 percent lift in retention. Using listener analytics we are able to create engagement emails based on “content consumption” and consumer communication journeys to deepen our relationship with our subscribers.
  • DMG Rewards: Past data tells us that there is an 11-15 percent lift in retention for subscribers who are members of our loyalty program versus those who are not. Our relaunched rewards program has three key focus areas: improving engagement with our content through gamification; improved emphasis on contests and discount offers from our advertising partners; and a special “subscriber only” benefits program to entice non-subscribers to ante up.

3.  In your time in marketing and engagement, how has audience behavior changed?

Over the past few years, we have seen a much faster migration to mobile news consumption. We are very close to having more readers on our mobile app/site on a daily basis than folks going to our website. We are also seeing more instances of folks that are time crunched beginning to consume news in shorter bursts – the Twitter phenomenon – than ever before. Our news readers are also using many more sources for consuming their news than ever before.

From a generational standpoint, baby boomers still remain our primary consumers in the printed format. However, research does point out that millennials are as voracious readers as baby boomers – their consumption habits are just different. Our challenge is to make sure that millennials realize that most of the news they consume on social streams can be attributed to professional news organizations and in turn be able to monetize that relationship.

4. What is the most exciting thing you’re working on?

We are currently in the midst of deploying SalesForce Marketing Cloud, which will enable us to leverage email, social and mobile technologies along with predictive behavior-based analytics to deepen our engagement with our readers, grow our digital subscriber base and help evangelize our news content to garner newer eyeballs to our digital content streams.

At the same time, we are also relaunching our loyalty program, which is going to be another key driver of engagement for our news stories, deepen the relationship with our subscribers and readers and evolve our partnership with our advertisers by offering discounts/offers that drive store visits and sales.

5. Where do you see the future of news media?

We all can agree that the future of news media can be pegged on three pivots: mobile, real-time and disintermediation.

We evidenced that very recently during last week’s incidents in Minneapolis and Dallas, when the common man was able to broadcast live (via Facebook) news as it occurred. They were great examples of the three pivots I mention above.

The challenge for news organizations is to evolve quickly, stay nimble, adopt and embrace these changes to stay relevant and continue to reinforce the trust, credibility and quality of news that is generated by professional news organizations.


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