Audience Development Strategy

Sell More Magazine Subscriptions Online Using the Mequoda Method

At Mequoda, we’ve crunched the numbers and discovered how beautifully email newsletters work to drive revenue. It’s not the traffic that comes to your site, which is the prevailing view among folks in all industries who jumped on the bandwagon early. Back in those days, it was all about impressions! Eyeballs on your page! After

If you’re looking for an easy answer to membership website success, there is one. If you know the secret, membership marketing can be easy, fun and profitable.

The secret is really a system of secrets that leverage good old email marketing and your premium content. It starts by turning website visitors into free email subscribers instead of trying to convert them immediately to paid subscribers and members.

Then you implement our secret system which includes a magazine library to complement your magazine subscription thus creating a magazine membership. The magazine library needs to include collections of content that span multiple issues that can be previewed and spotlighted using these two secret email marketing templates.

The process is easy if you have the skills to execute a high frequency content driven email marketing program. If you don’t have the strategy and the skills, it probably looks like magic.


The power of the email newsletter to sell more magazine subscriptions and premium memberships online

The biggest secret is in your email list. The bigger it is, the more you sell, and the more you can test. In the olden days before the internet, you wouldn’t try to launch a profitable direct mail campaign … and then refuse to buy any lists. You wouldn’t try to sell more single copies at the newsstand without increasing your print run.

Yet that’s essentially what many publishers do when they try to make money while ignoring the most powerful sales tool to develop out of the Internet revolution.

At Mequoda, we’ve crunched the numbers and discovered how beautifully email newsletters work to drive revenue. It’s not the traffic that comes to your site, which is the prevailing view among folks in all industries who jumped on the bandwagon early. Back in those days, it was all about impressions! Eyeballs on your page! After all, if they show up on your website, they’re bound to subscribe to your magazine, right?


Over and over again, we’ve found that passing website visitors don’t turn into buyers. They simply remain … passing website visitors. They certainly don’t help you sell more magazine subscriptions online. Who is your prime audience? The folks who like you enough to subscribe to your free email newsletter!

But what about social media? That’s the latest marketing darling, so I have to spend more time and effort on Facebook, right?

Wrong again.

The publishers who use email newsletters, such as Hearst, Meredith, and all our publishing partners, know a consumer publication can generate about $7 per subscriber, per year, selling subscriptions, advertising and ancillary products. From Twitter and Facebook followers? Less than $1. And those numbers are lower for B2B.

And as for magazine apps and gadget or game apps for your magazine – why try to become a software company, when what you’re really good at is producing content? Email newsletters work well, and it’s what you’re good at, so shelve the app ideas until you’re as big as, say, Condé Nast, and then you can afford to throw money at apps just because it’s hip. Otherwise, moat publishers should put gadget apps way down on their priority list.

Websites, social media, and gadget apps don’t help you build the relationship with your audience that keeps them engaged and loyal. Content-driven email newsletters from a publisher, however, speak directly to the audience. They’re free, daily, user-friendly, highly-targeted and personally delivered love letters to your subscribers.


Study after study has proven that content-driven email newsletters (as opposed to strictly retail newsletters from, say, Nordstrom or Staples) are among the most popular media that consumers read today.

If consumers are passionate about something, they want to read about it every day.

Different approaches to email marketing for selling magazines and premium memberships

At Mequoda, our publishing partners deploy several types of emails:

  • Editorial: These editorial emails promote excerpts of free editorial content that lead back to full articles on the website, and sandwich text ads for subscriptions in between those slices of content.
  • Spotlights: The promotional emails focus on promoting a single product, subscription, or membership. We use these spotlights for Six Sigma offer testing, which allows us to find out which copy and offers perform best.
  • Circ-Builders: These promotional emails focus on sharing free downloads, with the goal of getting these emails forwarded to friends and colleagues who will sign up and join the email list.
  • Library Previews: These hybrid emails curate content from premium content libraries, offering enough editorial content to satisfy the subscriber, but with plenty of links back to individual premium articles that require membership to read the full articles and download issues.

Why Mequoda content partners sell more magazines when they refine their email marketing skills

Email isn’t a quick and easy way to score big on the internet. It requires discipline and resources. There are three steps to success, and the dozens of publishing partners who’ve taken the time to implement it will tell you it works. They’re the A, C, and E in ACEM, the foundation of the Mequoda Method.

  • Build an optimized website to attract traffic.
  • Capture that traffic and turn them into email newsletter subscribers.
  • Engage those email subscribers with great content.
  • Only then can you fully monetize this dedicated audience. (See our webcast series for more about this.)

Do you need a website and passing traffic? Absolutely. But the website isn’t the endgame. Rather, it’s the stepping stone to building a big email list of engaged customers who can’t wait to find out what content they can buy from you.

There are three key metrics you should be monitoring, and improving, to dip your toes into this phenomenally successful method.

Visibility Index

The first metric is the Google Visibility Index. That’s impressions divided by searches. We think that number should be a healthy 20%. If you’re not visible to Google on the internet, you don’t exist, so the higher this number is, the better.

Brands that dominate their space can get it into the 60s. Some publishers stick at around 2-10 percent. But most publishers can make plenty of money by maintaining a number in the 20s. Want to increase your GVI? Work on your organic marketing, which is where 94% of traffic comes, generally speaking.

Email Capture Rate

The email capture rate is also within the publisher’s control. The industry average is less than .1% but our publishing partners see much higher, in full percentages. This number is easy to calculate, even though most publishers fail to track this one: For every 100 visitors you get, how many new email subscribers did you generate? Remember, email is key to the Mequoda Method. Without building a large email file, you simply can’t make a lot of money – or if you’re a really big brand like Time, for instance, you can make money … but still be leaving piles of it on the table.

Revenue Per Email Subscriber

This is another easy metric to capture that can account for revenues from user-paid content or sponsors and advertisers, and one that you can improve with rich content in your email newsletters, compelling sales copy for promotional emails, and well-thought-out offers.

Bottom line: If you keep building your visibility, focusing on that email capture rate, and improving your orders per thousand emails, your sales and revenues will grow.

Once you’ve developed a strategic email marketing system, membership marketing becomes a lot easier. All you need is the content to sell, and that part isn’t hard magic either.

And if you have additional tips to sell more magazine subscriptions, we’d love your contribution in the comments below. 

By Don Nicholas

Founder & Executive Publisher

Don Nicholas serves as Executive Publisher for Food Gardening Network and GreenPrints. He is responsible for all creative, technical, and financial aspects of these multiplatform brands. As senior member of the editorial team, he provides structural guidance, sets standards, and coordinates activities with the technology and business teams. Don is an active gardener whose favorite crops include tomatoes, basil, blueberries, and corn. He and his wife Gail live and work in southern Massachusetts surrounded by forests, family farms, cranberry bogs, and nearby beaches. Don is also the Founder of Mequoda Systems, LLC, which operates and supports numerous online communities including I Like Crochet, I Like Knitting, and We Like Sewing.

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