DAVENPORT, Iowa (November 11, 2019) — Lee Enterprises, Incorporated (NYSE: LEE), a leading provider of news, information, and advertising in 50 markets, announced today that the Google News Initiative is partnering with Lee Enterprises and its digital technology subsidiary, TownNews, to expedite the development of a machine learning-based paywall technology.
“Google and TownNews are the leading technology providers for our industry, and Google ML, coupled with TownNews’ technology platform, is ideally suited to turn data we’re already gathering into action,” said Lee Vice President of Digital James Green. “We know that users engage with local news in a variety of ways across our sites. Some visit daily, while others visit much less frequently. By applying artificial intelligence to information such as frequency of use, the type of content viewed, and the location of the user, we can better serve our readers and reach our audience goals.”
According to Green, the amount of content a user consumes before being encouraged to subscribe would vary based on the user’s previous actions and a model developed by Google ML, Lee and TownNews. Those readers who are deemed more likely to subscribe would receive fewer content views, while those with a lower probability may be served a larger amount of content to sample.
“The great benefit of metering the use of our sites is that it supports the high value of our unique local content and drives digital subscriptions,” Green added. “But, it does create challenges in that it limits our opportunity to serve advertising to our users. We believe that a smart, dynamic meter is a huge step forward because it is a means to support both revenue streams.”
Jason Washing, Managing Director, News Partnerships at Google shared: "Today, publishers have access to extensive data, but making sense of the numbers and putting those insights to work can be a challenge. We're thrilled to use Google's machine learning technology to help Lee and TownNews develop a dynamic paywall, which will provide a tailored experience for readers and the right meter strategy for Lee's business. Once complete, this technology and associated best practices will be openly shared to expand the impact."
Brad Ward, CEO of TownNews, added: “Streamlining the process of converting browsers to subscribers is a crucial piece of the revenue puzzle for many of our local media partners. As the leading provider of Content Management Systems for local media, our ability to leverage the expertise of Lee and Google will allow TownNews to rapidly enhance our paywall technology with innovative features that grow revenue for all of our customers, and move the industry forward.”
The company plans to begin testing the program in December.
Lee Enterprises is a leading provider of local news and information, and a major platform for advertising, with daily newspapers, rapidly growing digital products and nearly 300 weekly and specialty publications serving 50 markets in 20 states. Year to date, Lee's newspapers have average circulation of 0.7 million daily and 1.0 million Sunday, and are estimated to reach almost three million readers in print alone. Lee's markets include St. Louis, MO; Lincoln, NE; Madison, WI; Davenport, IA; Billings, MT; Bloomington, IL; and Tucson, AZ. Lee Common Stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol LEE. For more information about Lee, please visit www.lee.net.
About the Google News Initiative
The Google News Initiative represents Google's largest-ever effort to help journalism thrive in the digital age. Through its partnerships, programs and products, the Google News Initiative works with thousands of organizations worldwide to support quality independent journalism, financial sustainability, and development of new technologies that drive innovation. Google invested $300 million over three years to energize these collaborations, and to lay the foundation for new products and programs for a diverse set of news publishers, to benefit the entire ecosystem. This includes supporting thought leadership on topics like consumer revenue, advertising and data that are critical to the future of the news industry.