Google’s new lab lends news publishers a hand in digital subscription

Google News Initiative is preventing traditional print publishers from dying with the launch of the GNI Subscriptions Lab. In partnership with the Local Media Association and FTI Consulting, the lab seeks to develop a sustainable and thriving business model for newspapers across North America powered by digital subscriptions.

While Local Media Association president Nancy Lane noted in a post on Google’s blog that publishers have been putting digital subscription at the center of their business transformation, she said that there has yet been “a clear template at the metro and local levels.”

“One local publisher told me that his organisation’s existence is being threatened like never before, and that seeing his community lose the kind of journalism they produce is not an option. Another said if we as an industry can’t figure out the digital subscription model, then the end could be near,” added Lane.

Eight publishers will be chosen to participate in an experience designed by the GNI Subscriptions Lab addressing every step of the digital subscriptions process. They are said to “represent a cross-section of the local news industry, with a mix of both chain-owned and independent community and metro titles,” said the blog post. On the selection criteria, Lane said that the publishers must be ready to involve their higher management and be dedicated to figuring out a subscriptions strategy.

Over six months, the publishers will undergo a mix of quantitative and qualitative market research in existing and potential reader segments to understand the market, readers willingness to pay and more. The learnings will be shared with the industry at large, including at the LMA-LMC Elevate Summit in September, through experiential learning, playbooks and conference workshops. Lane said,

The future of community journalism is indeed at stake. I can’t think of a project more important at this moment in time. This is a powerful group effort, and our expectations are high.

Google teams will be supporting the initiative with its expertise in data, technology, product and subscriptions, while FTI Consulting will perform a full diagnostic evaluation of each participating publisher across multiple dimensions. Additionally, FTI Consulting will provide a detailed scorecard to show how each publisher sizes up, and a dashboard for measuring ongoing progress.

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