Digital subscriptions are critical to local news publishers’ bottom lines, but new findings suggest that an increasing number of these subscribers are “zombie” readers who seldom consume what they pay for, highlighting an unnerving trend among readers who remain unengaged even though they may still pay for local news.

Recent data analysis conducted by Northwestern University’s Medill Spiegel Research Center found that, on average, nearly half of local news outlets’ digital subscribers (49 percent) don’t visit the news sites they pay for even once a month.

An additional 54 percent said they visit the website of the news outlets they pay for only one day per month or fewer, 58 percent reported visiting two days a month or fewer, 69 percent visited seven days or fewer, and 79 percent visited 15 days or fewer.

The Medill Spiegel Research Center’s findings come on the heels of a viral Feb. report, which found that about 42 percent of The Arizona Republic’s digital-only subscribers didn't read a single article on the paper’s website in the last month. That Gannett property, which was founded in 1890, is the Grand Canyon State’s largest daily newspaper.

Sharing these findings via Twitter, CNN host Brian Stelter wrote, “I think I’ve lost the passwords for 42% of the digital outlets I subscribe to.”

Research for the Medill Spiegel Research Center study was based on data analysis of local news outlets in 45 U.S. markets.