COVID-19: Insights and Recommendations for Growing Subscription Revenue and Customer Lifetime Value

By Matt Lindsay, Arvid Tchivzhel, Dustin Tetley and Matthew Lulay


Insights from the Mather Economics’ Listener Data Platform: Data Trends in Engagement, Subscription Performance and Content

 

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MANAGING BUSINESS OPERATIONS

During times of crises, media companies face a dilemma driven by their historical brand and reason for being. Common refrains are:

“My journalistic mission is to serve my community, first and foremost

I don’t want to be perceived as capitalizing from a global emergency”

“Now is not the time to think about business, we need to handle the crisis”

Fulfilling the journalistic mission is critical during this time and its relevance should not be understated. However, during difficult economic conditions, taking proactive and thorough action to ensure long-term business sustainability is even more important than before.

Mather Economics is invested in our clients’ success and are committed to supporting our clients. The Great Recession of 2008 informs us that we must prepare, manage the immediate risk, identify opportunity, and act.

These insights can help guide digital revenue management…

 

INDUSTRY CONTENT BENCHMARKS

In the most recent 30-day period, explicitly tagged COVID-19 content that appears on the path to conversion has declined to 56% vs. a high of 80% during the April period.

COVID-19 articles produced has also declined to 29% of all articles from a high of 46% during the April period.

As a “new normal” settles in, diverse content will be key to ensure high levels of conversion.

 

INDUSTRY SUBSCRIPTION BENCHMARKS

The subscription growth curve has moved beyond its peak and has leveled to comparable performance observed in March. There continues to be relative growth in subscriptions compared to February. The summer period is a historically low conversion volume as well, suggesting a return to pre-COVID-19 levels in the coming months.  In addition to the relative decline in conversion volume, Fanatic volume and other top-funnel metrics are beginning to decline. Known users continues to remain fairly consistent in April and May.

 

 

CONSIDERATIONS FOR THE COMING MONTHS

Risk can be summarized in three areas for the latter half of 2020:

  • New conversions and conversion rate will likely decline due to shifting narratives, the amortization of expected conversions during 2020 into a short period of time, and the summer season
  • Fanatic volume has returned to March levels – if the mid-funnel performance also returns to January/February levels, fewer people will be engaged enough to subscribe, further reducing conversion volume
  • New subscribers pose a high churn risk as engagement abates

Key focus areas for the summer months will be:

  • Top-funnel and mid-funnel tactics: COVID-19 attracted a high number of new users and engaged existing users enough to migrate them to Fanatics. Apply tactics to reach and push users down the funnel
  • Refining new subscriber onboarding series’ and developing targeted retention and pricing tactics based on content preference and engagement level
  • Bottom-funnel tactics can be simplified to keeping a tight meter (or high levels of premium content), experimenting with personalization in the call-to-action, and testing price and its impact on lifetime value

In the most recent 30-day period, explicitly tagged COVID-19 content that appears on the path to conversion has declined to 56% vs. a high of 80% during the April period. COVID-19 articles produced has also declined to 29% of all articles from a high of 46% during the April period.  As a “new normal” settles in, diverse content will be key to ensure high levels of conversion.

Click here to download the full presentation (includes: Driving Engagement Across the Funnel; Creative Ideas and Case Studies Business Rule Recommendations)


 

In a recent webinar, Matt Lindsay comments on pricing digital. “For digital subscribers who have been actively engaged, you can usually price them closer to print. We do a lot of A/B testing, (and find) there’s a reduction in price sensitivity after a year of engagement, and then again after two to three years. Once you get past that one-year anniversary or perhaps two, don’t be afraid to be more aggressive on pricing.”

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