by Matt Lindsay, President | Mather Economics
December 26, 2022 | 4-min read
This is the sixth year we have participated in writing for this blog, and this is our fifth year-end review. We proudly support the news industry by sharing insights, best practices, benchmarks, and case studies from our work with news publications. These articles are a team effort at Mather Economics. Eight individuals contributed to our posts in 2022, with five first-time authors, including Pete Doucette, who joined the firm in August.
A Year in Review
Each blog post is summarised below with a link to their location on the INMA Web site. This year’s posts include:
- Tactics to improve strategic renewal pricing performance (January).
- Case studies of using content analytics to support digital subscription growth (February and March).
- A three-article series on digital subscription acquisition offer optimisation using lifetime value as the key metric (April, May, and June).
- A review of Mather’s second-quarter subscription and digital audience benchmark reports (July).
- Guidance on managing your print revenue stream to match your organisation’s digital subscription maturity level (September).
- Results from our study of how inflation has affected pricing elasticity at 300 news subscription products (November).
The response to these 2022 posts has been incredible, and we appreciate your feedback and questions.
- January 12: Protect high-rate subscribers from price increases to reduce price reduction requests. A tenured, high-rate subscriber who responds to a price increase notification by calling customer service to obtain a lower rate may cost the publisher more than the cancellation of a lower-rate subscriber.
- February 16: Premium content models, customer lifetime value add necessary layer to monetisation strategies. Combining the path to conversion and core score is one way to assess the value created by an article to the publisher from both subscription sales and retention.
- March 20: Research shows difference in COVID, Ukraine news engagement. Though local newspapers will (and should) cover global events, Mather recommends U.S. local newspapers continue their existing paid content strategies oriented around local news.
- April 12: Media should optimise go-to market offers with lifetime value as North Star. The lifetime value North Star and optimisation framework help marketers make critical decisions based on maximising revenue opportunities.
- May 16: These levers, relationships impact the lifetime value North Star. Media decision-makers should quantify monthly start volume based on paywall settings, price elasticity, and churn.
- June 15: 3 case studies show how offer optimisation can grow readers, revenue. Offer optimisation can be applied to set a five-year strategy, target low-propensity readers with compelling offers, and confidently raise prices, knowing businesses are focused on long-term lifetime value.
- July 26: Research: Digital product acquisition, consumer spending on subscriptions are likely to remain steady. Benchmark research from North American news media companies indicates acquisition of digital products is likely to remain at current levels without a significant news event occurring to increase traffic.
- August 29: 3 data science use cases demonstrate news publisher monetisation options. These three use cases are driven by data science and have impacted significant bottom-line revenue and subscription growth.
- September 29: Print subscription pricing strategy aggressiveness depends on print runway. Some U.S. data indicates news publishers know they need to ease the pricing accelerator and elongate their print runway to fund their digital transformation.
- November 7: These 4 tips can turn inflation into an opportunity for media companies. Current macroeconomic conditions have publishers and consumers alike considering how to navigate this new economic climate. Companies across all industries are trying to determine the right balance between raising prices in the face of higher production costs while maintaining demand and profitability.
The year ahead
Leading economic indicators predict a global recession in 2023, which will keep pressure on the primary revenue streams for news media companies.
A few trends we are observing in the news media industry include:
- Higher subscription prices for digital products to attain sustainable digital revenue streams.
- Migration of print products to alternative delivery methods such as same-day postal delivery.
- Evolution of product bundles across print, mobile apps, electronic replicas, Web and mobile browsers, and newsletters to increase customer engagement.
- Digital advertising targeted using first-party data in anticipation of third-party cookie limitations.
- Search results reflecting engagement with site content instead of standard SEO methods.
- Subscriber-only content used in concert with metered sites to maintain subscription sales attempts while increasing top-of-funnel engagement.
- Content promotion to increase reach to new audiences and grow top-of-funnel volume.
The following are strategies and tactics we encourage publishers to consider for 2023 in light of these trends and potential worsening recession:
- Assess digital readiness for disruption to existing printing and delivery operations, particularly for national titles.
- Explore value-adding product features, such as ad-free, network access to mutliple titles, and product bundles to raise digital-only reader revenue.
- Continue to improve user experience for digital products, such as speed to load, ad positions, and article formats designed for particular platforms.
- Invest in first-party data capabilities, either internally or with partners, to enable targeted customer acquisition and advertising.
- Promote contentto grow top-of-funnel sales opportunities and expand brand awareness.
- Balance subscriber-only content designations with metered content settings to encourage engagement but maintain subscription sales attempts.
- Revisit you organisation’s core strengths and consider what functions and processes can be done more effectively and cheaply by partners.
We wish you all the best holiday season and continued success in the new year.