Mather: News & Insights
March 31, 2023
Get up to speed with a quick recap from last week’s Mather Economics Media Revenue Symposium and focus on these four core themes to build a ‘next-level’ media organization.
The Mather Economics 2023 Media Revenue Symposium saw over 200 leaders come together to experience three days of over 40 inspirational speakers from North America’s most prominent news media, magazine, and DTC (Direct to Consumer) subscription brands. We share our perspective on this year’s Symposium’s central themes and implications for news media companies.
Matt Lindsay, President of Mather Economics, the global leader in subscription analytics and yield management, set the tone for the 8th Media Revenue Symposium in Atlanta on March 21, declaring, “successful subscription businesses require doing many things right on an ongoing basis, we realize there is no silver bullet and that’s why this conference is intended to be the sharing of learnings about what is and isn’t working.”
Nicki Purcell, president of Insite and this year’s moderator, kicked off the first-day panel, which helped lay the foundation for a successful three-day event. Each day, leaders shared their knowledge and best practices for optimizing products and content to capture maximum revenue from subscriptions, advertising, and other sources.
Here’s a quick recap of the central themes discussed over three days.
Publishers will be forced to continue changing their operating model.
There’s more pressure than ever on print revenues, so publishers must continue to look for new revenue streams and cost savings measures. “It’s important to find those new revenue streams, too, that can complement the core subscription and ad business,” says Pete Doucette, Senior Managing Director, Strategy of Mather Economics. Areas for new and increased revenues include:
- Return of in-person events
- Sports betting
- Increases in philanthropy
- Branded content
- Syndication of niche, specific content verticals that have an audience across a broader geography
The model for publishers of different sizes is also diverging concerning their mix of revenue streams. Small-market newspapers have less potential digital subscription revenue and will continue to rely on advertising and other revenue streams. Global, national, and large regional titles have more significant potential for digital subscription revenue and are experimenting with new digital products and services.
The speakers frequently discussed two main issues on the expense side.
- Print Frequency
- Many publishers are succeeding in keeping subscribers and engagement while decreasing print frequency. Recognizing what readers are looking for at different times of the week, what content needs to be fresh versus what’s timeless, etc., is critical in developing a solid content strategy for decreased frequency.
- Core functions
- Publishers constantly assess which functions are “core” and must be focused on versus those that can be met through partnering and managed services. Finding, hiring, and keeping talent in marketing, analytics/data science, and technology development is increasingly challenging, so looking for cost-effective alternatives is necessary.
Dynamic digital pricing will be crucial to offset declining print revenues.
It will take many revenue streams to replace lost print revenue in the future, but maximizing digital revenue will be fundamental to this effort. Matt Lindsay remarked early in the conference that “you can’t out volume rate,” and it follows that dynamically pricing digital subscribers is a critical step for the sustainability of the digital subscription business.
Newsday’s Erik Zenhausern says, “When confident in your product, you can increase prices in all economic conditions. It is typically the action of a price change that initiates reverts/stops, not the increasing amount.”
The most progressive publishers see real success using digital engagement data in this dynamic pricing.
The newsroom is your greatest resource – help them leverage data insights to create more valuable content.
Generally speaking, the newsroom makes up about half the cost structure and is a key audience and revenue development growth engine. Treat it as such. Build trust with your newsroom and be transparent about the goals that need to be achieved.
When it comes to reporting and leveraging data and technology, too much reporting can be a hindrance. It’s only valuable if you focus the information on straightforward metrics that the newsroom can easily use to shift resources, vary article volume, and understand how different content can drive conversions versus retention versus engagement.
Several organizations shared success stories in change management with the newsroom, building trust to capitalize on new insights.
Having the proper process, technology, and metrics is paramount in testing your way to more profitability.
As the economic environment continues to evolve, it’s more necessary than ever to test new things – both essential things such as business models and smaller tactical pricing, product, and customer-facing items. In all cases, having the discipline to set up the proper tests, in the right cadence, with the right tools, and measuring results correctly are table stakes to learning correctly about what happened and what to do. Trying too many things haphazardly can be an expensive and time-wasting endeavor.
Several organizations stressed these elements in testing:
- Organization alignment on what to test and what to do with the test results. “Are we willing to implement whatever we learn?”
- Clear success metrics
- Technology to ensure the correct data capture
- Start small before making significant technology investments or significant changes to the organization.
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