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4 Tips for Highly Effective Media Subscription Models

4 Tips for Highly Effective Media Subscription Models@2x

For digital publishers throughout the industry, user revenue is one of the biggest priorities! With growing ad fatigue and ad blockers in usage, an increasing number of publishers make use of reader revenue approaches – involving memberships, subscriptions, paywalls, with a request from the readers to endorse their work.

Premium publishers have skyrocketed with the media subscription model! Their paid subscription base now has more people paying for digital news and other online content than ever before. All signs show that more readers will be willing to pay for content in the future.

Still, many digital publishers are finding it difficult to establish a defined and actionable subscription model for reader revenue. There are numerous ways to develop a strong media subscription model strategy, and you’ll do it much easier if you follow the tips that we’ll outline in this article.

Why Media Subscription Is Getting Stream?

person holding a book entitled the 100 best companies to work for 2016

There are numerous arguments why the subscription monetization model is getting more popular:

It Provides Recurring Revenue

A lifetime access payment allows you to earn more money at once. But, subscriptions ensure that you’ll get continuous financial support from your readers. Paying a small monthly subscription fee has a bigger appeal than a one-time payment that can reduce the amount in the users’ wallets.

Is Perfect for Various Pricing Packages

With a subscription monetization, you can tweak and diversify your prices. For example, you can charge differently according to the level of access a user needs. This is perfect for the readers as well because they can choose the best option for them in terms of price and practicality.

Increases User Engagement

When people paid and subscribed, they’ve decided to engage more with your content. That’s because they’re motivated to get the full value of their acquisition, which in this case is the monthly subscription.

It Is More Alluring for Readers

Like we said, with the content subscription model, readers don’t have to pay a big sum of money immediately. Additionally, if you provide them the opportunity, they can unsubscribe at any given moment. This convenience is reasonable since they can cancel the subscription or reboot it anytime they want.

It’s a Win-Win

When people agree to pay to read quality content, persuading them to pay for it is not necessary. It’s a win-win situation for both users and digital publishers. You won’t irritate users with too many marketing messages because they’ve bought into the subscription already. This means that you don’t need to spend extra money to persuade them for the subscription.

Here are the four tips for a highly effective media subscription model:

1. Understand the Challenges of the Media Subscription Model

person browsing on a tablet with a coffee cup on the table

Of course, the media subscription model for digital publishers can sound like it’s too good to be true. But the truth is, this model isn’t flawless. When you start subscription-based digital publishing, you should be conscious of the challenges that you might face along the way.

You Must Deliver Quality

When you provide content, it needs to be of high-quality and consistently revised and upgraded. The media subscription model is appropriate for content that is regularly consumed and improved. If you only provide content that people read every so often, people wouldn’t want to pay you.

Credit Cards Limitations

Credit and debit cards have their expiration dates and boundaries. The card that the reader used to make the first and second monthly payment might not be eligible for the third payment. Can you limit the access to your content until the user adds a new card? Should you overlook the delayed payments? That won’t help your digital publishing business thrive.

You Will Compete with Strong Ad-Free Options

The competition is the biggest challenge that you’ll face as a digital media publisher. To compete in the niche, many publishers and have turned to ads placement to cover their costs. The ad-free content became a convincing selling point as well, and that’s what justifies the subscription model from a consumer point of view.

The Subscription Fatigue as a Reality

The term “subscription fatigue” explains the situation where users are overwhelmed as a result of having too many subscriptions emails. They feel agitated because they’re not reading them, especially the ones they’ve paid for.

To stay on top of their minds and valuable, as a digital publisher, you must exceed the expectations of your target readers. The “subscription fatigue” can serve as your biggest drive to constantly enhance your content and newsletter.

2. Focus on Building a Community

four people using their cellphones

So, you want to build loyal readership while making premium subscription available at the same time? If that’s the case, you must focus on building a community out of your readers first.

The building of each community starts and ends with high-quality content. If the readers enjoy reading your articles, the subscription model will be successful as well. Still, in lots of cases, quality content is just not good enough to make the readers commit to a subscription. To build a strong membership community, you often need to provide additional value to your readers to keep the engagement going.

You need to discover what makes these readers tick. For example, lots of users that consume high-quality industry content are experts in the niche themselves. These people would love if they can add their two cents on the topic as well. They’d also love to communicate with the authors around the idea of the topic and share their feedback.

quartz membership plans

Image Source: Quartz Membership

For example, Quartz, a global news publisher provides Quartz Membership where for $14.99 per month, or $99 per year, the members get some unique perks, such as:

  • Conference Calls: Readers get exclusive access to journalists to discuss topics.
  • Field Guides: Members get in-depth industry guides, with expert analysis and forecasts.
  • Q&As: A member has access to interviews with experts that shape the future of industries. As a member, you can submit your questions before the interview starts.
  • Exclusive Events: Members get invited to events to network and engage with other Quartz members.

The above is an excellent example of a contemporary membership community that revolves around content. It provides various benefits and has the power to keep the interaction between the publisher and members going.

3. Choose Your Most Suitable Paywall

woman online shopping using credit card

If you’re considering a paywall model, you need to understand the different models in the marketplace. You need to figure out how each of them works, as each of them has its advantages and disadvantages.

Hard Paywall

This is the most straightforward paywall subscription model! You restrict your audience from reading your content unless they pay you for it. Most of the publishers that make use of this model allow a small number of articles and content teasers outside the wall. If consumers they want to see the entire content, they will have to subscribe and pay.

This paywall is effortless for implementation and maintenance. Once enforced, you don’t need to regularly focus on its optimization, although in most of the cases, you will need to make adjustments to your offer.

Still, hard paywalls present a big obstacle for the audience. By commanding them to immediately pay to see the entire content, you may lose casual readers. You can also lose readers that encounter your website for the first time.

Hard paywalls work the best for respectable industry and business publications. These publications have loyal readers that know exactly what they’ll get for their membership.

nature access options

Image Source: Nature

Premium Memberships

With the premium membership method, you allow some of your content for free. Then, you add more valuable (premium) content pieces protected with a subscription paywall. To premium subscribers, you can also provide extra benefits, such as exclusive event access and ad-free reading experience.

What’s difficult is to find the right balance of what content to put behind a paywall. If you charge for most of your content, then the advertising model can fail. On the flipside, if you charge for only a few premium pieces, then the subscription model will collapse.

The premium subscriptions model can work for you if you have a niche portion of your audience that’s zealous enough about a certain type of content, and that’s why they’re willing to pay for it.

the atlantic premium membership the masthead

Image Source: The Atlantic

Metered Paywall

This is one of the most commonly implemented paywalls. It has multiple variations, but the basic idea is that it can only be initiated by specific conditions.

These conditions can vary from accessing a certain number of content pieces for free before hitting the paywall, to a range of previous and present behaviors, as well as predicted future behaviors with your content.

The metered paywall method allows you to reach your audience with free content and gain ad revenue, while you’re also developing an interest in your subscriptions. This keeps your audience reach while you’re using a targeted outreach, nurturing, and conversion approaches to attract subscribers for the premium content.

A metered paywall’s adaptability means that if you do it properly with your publishing business, it can meet your subscription and advertising needs. The only obstruction that you should encounter can be in the form of not having the right technology, data, or personnel to execute the model properly.

the new york times basic subscription plan

Image Source: The New York Times

As you get familiar with each paywall model and the process/technology behind it, you’ll take a more hybrid approach. These approaches make proper use of data to interact with the right readers. It’s certainly more effective than focusing on less engaged users that are not likely to pay for your premium articles.

4. Learn How to Manage Subscriber Churn

emergency exit sign

If you want to rely on the media subscription model, but you don’t know how to keep and grow your subscribers base, you’ll have to rely on the occasionally unpredictable ad revenue model.

The media subscription model doesn’t stop by getting new paying subscribers. According to a study done by the Lenfest Institute, in only one year, publishers with the biggest churn will end up with half as many subscribers as those with the least churn.

expected customer retention after 1 year

To successfully manage subscriber turnover, you need to first understand it. As a digital media publisher, the following are the most vital aspects that you need to grasp about churn.

Churn Is Common

The number one thing to understand about churn is that it’s pretty common. A person’s financial situation can change. Even his/her interests can change all of a sudden. That’s why some of your members will unsubscribe from your paid membership content. Eradicating churn is impossible. For that reason, you need to work on reducing churn, instead of eliminating it.

The churn rate can differ based on multiple reasons. This can include your content type and size too. For that reason, it’s beneficial for you to focus on lowering your churn rate altogether rather than having a fixed goal of minimal churn rate.

The Chances of Unsubscribing Decrease over Time

Churn isn’t consistent. There are periods of a user’s lifecycle when he/she wouldn’t want to unsubscribe. There’s a higher probability that a reader will churn immediately after subscribing.

According to an audience behavior study conducted by Die Welt, a German magazine, nearly half of fresh subscribers will unsubscribe inside the first three months. The Die Welt churn dropped from 1% to 2% for subscribers that were subscribed for more than three months.

If someone stays subscribed for a year, they’ll likely stay longer than that.

Gratitude Goes a Long Way

There are many ways to reduce churn besides price changes and improving your content.

One of them is Gratitude. Some of the biggest publishers in the world, such as The Washington Post thank their members by sending out a ‘Thank You’ email on the member’s subscription anniversary. Other publishers provide their members with physical and digital gifts, as well as experiences such as live events and forums.

Sometimes, everything doesn’t revolve around the brand and the quality of the content. The gesture of appreciation is what counts and goes a long way! Show your subscribers that you appreciate their support, and watch how that churn rate normalizes itself.

In conclusion, building and maintaining a subscriber base requires lots of work but also pushing for constant improvement. Optimize your pricing models, as well as your content, but also realize the different aspects of churn, thank your existing subscribers, and gauge your success by using the correct KPIs.

Wrapping It Up

Bottom line, each advice described above works best when it’s utilized in conjunction with the rest of the tips. By experimenting with a wide variety of approaches for your media subscription model, and demonstrating gratitude plus value for your subscribers/members, you’ll be able to reach the readers that are most likely to enjoy your content and convert them to regular members of your premium club.

If you start now and stay committed to your partners and your team, the subscription model can completely transform your publishing business and open new doors to the marketplace that you didn’t even know that they existed in the first place!

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