Project Update – Mather Economics and the Google News Initiative LATAM Subscription Lab

Project Update – Mather Economics and the Google News Initiative LATAM Subscription Lab
November 2019

The project is moving into the final A/B testing phase, which is expected to be completed in Q1 2020. Mather Economics has continued to work with all eight participating publishers since beginning the project in June and has already uncovered countless insights to support sustainable digital business models. Strategic and tactical recommendations have been made throughout the project that have already impacted critical decisions.

Onsite working sessions with each publisher allowed the Mather team to gather valuable information about current operations and prepare strategic recommendations for each publisher. These executive interviews helped the participating publishers better understand how far along they are on the digital transformation journey. A simple framework was used to measure how mature each part of the organization is from “best in class” to “needs development”.

Using Mather Economics’ Listener data platform, 30 data points were analyzed to benchmark within the LATAM cohort as well as against hundreds of publishers globally. Performance metrics such as conversion rate, path-to-conversion, churn rate, yield, average price, paywall impact…etc. revealed strengths and areas to improve.



A follow-up deep-dive on audience and content data for each publisher revealed critical information and revenue opportunity. Audience segmentation explained distinct behavior of those willing to subscribe and the incremental benefit of triggering a user to read an extra minute, extra day, an extra section or extra page view. Each article was evaluated to measure which ones were read before subscribing, and just as importantly, which were not read by subscribers. A revenue estimate was prepared to help decision-makers move forward with the biggest opportunities and tactics.


Key Takeaways so far…

~ Though the challenge of sustainable digital business models is shared globally, each publisher has unique strengths and value propositions that are core to their audience
–  No two publishers were identical with respect to technical resources, data culture, adoption of data within the newsroom, or sophistication of marketing tactics

~ The primary triggers for subscription are generally engagement-based but frequency by itself is not always the #1 factor in engagement.
–  Some publishers showed that content breadth (how many distinct topics a user reads) is more important than frequency
–  Other publishers showed that time-per-visit to be less important when accounting for other engagement metrics
–  Encountering the paywall also shows diminishing returns, which means after a user hits the paywall more than 10 times in a 30-day period, it is important to vary the offer (discount, term, creative…etc.)

~ The amount of content being published that does not lead to conversion was perhaps the biggest surprise for many publishers though benchmark data suggests the participating publishers are within the common range observed globally

~ There is no “silver bullet” or single tool that solves the question of sustainable business models. Clear vision, cross-functional organization, data-driven decisions, and disciplined testing/execution are critical for success

We are excited to move into the final phase of the project and share additional insights from the tests.

A huge “thank you” to Google and the publishers for all their support and engagement throughout the project!

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