Editor's note: Maria Petersen is vice president of customer intelligence at Dow Jones.

News media and print journalism have faced considerable challenges in recent years. The general decline in circulation has been hotly debated and a slew of solutions have been applied across titles to ensure that news media can continue its vital role in society. For some that means pay walls; for others we have seen a pivoting to video as a more engaging medium to deliver journalism. In the midst of this, The Wall Street Journal has become a fully-fledged membership business. However, as Shelly Seale of the International News Media Association has said, “The paywall models of metered and freemium all have one thing in common: Their access rules are determined by content, rather than customer data. This has led to a one-size-fits-all approach.”

At The Wall Street Journal we understood that as the business pivoted to a membership model, we needed to make our offering as dynamic and customer-centric as possible. We needed to better understand what customers really want from their media, in order to provide a world-class membership experience for our members and to deliver clear direction for product development – as well as future-proofing the brand. We were curious as to what the emergent needs and behaviors of our audience were and how these needs and behaviors interact with the content we provide. 

We therefore engaged the team at global research firm Kadence International to undertake a significant mixed-method research study aimed at providing the necessary intelligence to drive change and growth at The Wall Street Journal.

The research was designed as a thoroughly integrated project – not only in terms of qual and quant but also of different qual methodologies. The study integrated qualitative research throughout the process, including 60 seven-day diaries that were completed by customers to detai...