COVID-19 Benchmarks – Insights and Implications

By Arvid Tchivzhel, Managing Director of Digital Services Download Report Over the past six months, the Mather team has observed a new baseline level for Fanatics and Known Users compared … Read more COVID-19 Benchmarks – Insights and Implications

Q&A Follow Up Report: Evaluating Print Delivery Days

Presented by Mather EconomicsMatt Lindsay, president; Matthew Lulay, managing director; and Madelin Zwingelberg, senior manager

The economics of profitably printing and delivering newspapers has become increasingly challenging, and the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for publishers to evaluate their business models, including the number of print service days. Most publishers are experiencing double-digit declines in advertising revenue, and the recovery to pre-COVID trends is expected to take a year or more.

During a recent webinar in August, The Mather team helped advise publishers on recouping the lost revenue in savings. They also shared recent case studies on how some of our partners are navigating scenario planning for print delivery day reductions through custom-built subscription and advertising revenue forecasting tools.

Attendees of the webinar asked questions to Mather’s pricing experts.  See their questions and advise below.














1| We lowered our print schedule from 7 to 2 days and offered 7-day digital for the same rate they were paying. This was in April and now we are thinking about lowering to 1 print day and keep the rate the same. How do we relay this to the subscribers who already were upset that we went down to 2?

Mather: We think framing these print delivery reductions in the context of making difficult decisions to allow for the continued operation of the publication is an effective communication strategy. Newspapers would like to be in a position to delivery seven days a week, but the economics of doing that have become more and more challenging. Adjusting delivery schedules gives publishers the ability to continue to provide the important service to the community.

2| Can you define the range of increase % Conservative, Moderate, Aggressive?

Mather: For the data in our chart, conservative is 10% or less, moderate is 10 to 25%, while aggressive is greater than 25%. Each site does 2x per year increases. When applying this to your own market, it’s important to consider the other business rules to determine if you have conservative, moderate or aggressive rules. This is something your primary consultant can help you gauge.

3| Do you have data or advice about dropping from 2 days a week to 1?

Mather: We do not have specific experience with publishers going from 2 days to 1 , but the general framework for evaluating that decision remains the same with forecasting the subscription and advertising revenue impacts along with the expense reductions.

4| Do you have data on how the digital engagement of print subscribers or the digital engagement of the market as a whole effected subscriber attrition and the overall financial effectiveness of dropping days?

Mather: We have heard from our partners that the e-edition usage on the print day(s) dropped increased significantly in the mid double digits.

5| What are some of the value-adds to digital that are resonating among those cutting print publishing days?

Mather: Adding content to the remaining print days, augmenting with a national product, and expanding e-edition features have been effective strategies in adding value to the product while reducing the print footprint.

6| On the subscription side, are you removing day(s) and continuing with price increasing at the same % levels? Is it dependent on the day of the week removed -i.e. weakest print day?

Mather: Most publishers maintain the same price increase before and after the reduction; but some may offset the reduced days by making their business rules more conservative with a longer wait time between increases.

7| Are there any days that were better than others to eliminate?

Mather: Saturdays and Mondays are popular options for print reduction due to the limited impact on advertising. It is important to consider the content in your market that drives engagement on different days of the week to minimize impact on readership.

8| Any specific effects on obituary revenue category?

Mather: Obituaries seem to be a line item that is less affected by print delivery cuts than most since it is not highly dependent on the day of week being inserted.

9| What was the most common # of days eliminated in this data?

Mather: Eliminating one day was the most common in our benchmarks.

10| Are people reducing prices for dropping additional (more than 1) days?

Mather: We haven’t seen this from the markets we polled. The justification of a non-discount approach is by investing heavily into the digital product.

11| What is the average circulation of the newspapers reflected in this data?

Mather: The markets in this database range from less than 2k paid print circulation to greater than 100k.

12|  Is there any correlation in the digital advertising revenue and print delivery day reductions?

Mather: We have not seen a major impact on digital advertising revenue with print delivery days dropped, but our benchmarks are slightly limited in that area.

For additional question on print reduction days, reach out to Matthew Lulay or Madelin Zwingelberg.


Article: Forecasting the Impact of Print Reduction Days

Pandemic Prompts Evaluation of Print Delivery Days – America’s Newspapers Webinar

The economics of profitably printing and delivering newspapers has become increasingly challenging, and the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for publishers to evaluate their business models, including the number … Read more Pandemic Prompts Evaluation of Print Delivery Days – America’s Newspapers Webinar

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

Updated July 22, 2020
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

Download File


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…



  • In the most recent 30-day period, content explicitly tagged as COVID-19 that appears on the path to conversion for new digital subscriptions increased month over month to 42% in July from 29% in June, but it is below the high of 80% during the April period.
  • COVID-19 articles produced has stabilized in the last 60 days at 16% of all articles from a high of 46% during the April period.
  • We have observed that the impact of COVID-19 content on path to conversion and engagement mirrors the pattern of new COVID-19 cases in the United States and other regions.


Ratios of COVID-19 Content and Conversions




New conversion growth is past its peak and slowly trending down towards March levels.  There continues to be relative growth in subscriptions compared to February.  Fanatic and Known users have stabilized since May, suggesting an overall growth in engaged and high propensity users.  The number of users hitting the paywall is only 4% higher than February levels, suggesting non-paywall channels are key for subscription growth.  The Conversion Rate is improved from the influx of Fanatic users as well, making the paywall more effective.



30-Day Growth in Key Audience Metrics




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

  • As expected, conversions and conversion rate have shown decline relative to the peak April months; we expect this to continue to decline unless publishers decided to offer even more attractive discount introductory offers
  • Fanatic volume seems to have stabilized for the summer though risk still remains if engagement drops to March levels and reducing the pool of high-propensity users
  • New subscribers pose a high churn risk if engagement abates
  • There is uncertainty for US publishers with a “second wave” of COVID-19 cases and impact on subscriptions

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

Creative Ideas & Case Studies


Creative COVID-19 ideas


Business Rule Recommendations

  • Basic and breaking news COVID-19 content remains free though counts towards the meter
  • Free registration wall on COVID-19 content to gather email addresses
  • In-depth coverage should remain behind the paywall
  • Newsletter development and promotion (long-term and breaking news)
  • Do not disable the paywall completely from your websites – other content should be left as-is
  • Communicate clearly with your audience about your business rules and decision
  • Ask users to donate: sponsor a subscription, donate to a good cause, donate to the newspaper
  • Reach out to print subscribers and encourage digital activation; the latest news will be in digital form and doing so will help reduce risks and challenges of home delivery
  • Use the influx of new users to your site as an opportunity for top-of-funnel and mid-funnel audience development – do not be hesitant to state your editorial decision and value proposition clearly
  • For repeat users, encourage them to sample non-COVID-19 content to grow the relationship (via widgets, newsletters, banners, and other calls-to-action)

Click here to download the full presentation

Mather Economics will continue to monitor and publish industry trends, case, studies, and recommendations during the COVID pandemic.  We are available for any questions regarding these data or insights.  Please contact us at or

Subscriber Price Optimization – Intelligent Pricing

Pricing Optimization

Intelligent pricing can increase revenue, minimize customer churn, and maximize the lifetime value of customer relationships:


Mather Economics can set prices to leverage audience-content dynamics to increase acquisition and revenue.

We can identify the optimal prices for each customer throughout their lifecycle with the product.

We can also assist with acquisition offer development, renewal pricing, and additional sales to existing customers.


Price Elasticity differs greatly by tenure level.


  • BAU target subs received 5% increase
  • Holdout subs received no increase
  • Differences in total stops due to price change
  • Similar findings are true with Digital Engagement, Income levels and Age groups.

Click here for more Subscriber Price Optimization information.


Segment customers by churn risk, price elasticity for long-term profitability

By Brandon Williams, Senior Manager, Matthew Lulay, Senior Director and Matt Lindsay, Ph. D., President INMA Satisfying Audiences Blog – June 8, 2020 Download PDF Two important characteristics to know … Read more Segment customers by churn risk, price elasticity for long-term profitability

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