Lower site traffic, dramatic economic climate impacted 2022 for news publishers (+ likely 2023 trends)

By Matt Lindsay

Mather Economics

Atlanta, Georgia, USA


It’s fair to say that 2022 was a momentous year for news media.

A dramatic change in the economic climate, lower traffic for news sites, and increasing costs for labour, fuel, and newsprint are among the challenges news publishers are facing. At Mather, we addressed these issues in our monthly INMA blog posts, which also provided strategies and tactics publishers can implement to adapt to the changing market.

This post reviews our articles published on INMA’s Satisfying Audiences blog in 2022. These year-end reviews provide an opportunity to reflect on lessons learned and discuss expectations for the year.

Renewal pricing, digital subscription growth, digital subscription acquisition, and price elasticity were hot topics in media in 2022.
Renewal pricing, digital subscription growth, digital subscription acquisition, and price elasticity were hot topics in media in 2022.

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.

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 content to 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.

About Matt Lindsay

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