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Capstone Projects

Journalism Worth Paying For: Identifying Topics That Drive Reader Subscriptions

Program: Data Science Master's
Host Company: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, USA TODAY
Location: Wisconsin (onsite)
Student: Eric Litke

Amid plummeting revenue from print advertising and a realization that digital advertising will never come close to filling that void, the journalism industry has for years sought a new path to financial sustainability. In recent years attention has increasingly turned to digital subscriptions as a revenue generator, seeking to capitalize on the online traffic that is one of the few areas of growth for journalism. Newspapers have implemented an array different paywall models — requiring payment for all stories, certain types of stories or certain numbers of stories. While much study has gone into the nature of those paywalls and the effectiveness of various pricing and bundling, less work has been done on identifying the type of journalism people are most willing to pay for. This analysis uses data on paywalled stories published by USA TODAY and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel to identify what topics, story types and other characteristics are most associated with an increase in subscriptions.