Subscription Marketing Techniques for Promoting the Benefits of Web Libraries and Collections

Why take the hard route, when subscription marketing can be so much easier?

subscription marketing

Copywriters who are promoting a magazine subscription are promoting content that does not yet exist, and for decades they’ve fallen back on creating sales letters that write about types of content. These types of content are typically based on past issues of the magazine that the prospective subscriber will never get.

Copywriters who are promoting web libraries, collections and special digital editions now have the opportunity to promote actual articles that do exist instead of dancing around vague concepts taken from past issues that subscribers will never see.

I recall the story of an esteemed copywriter who wrote a hugely successful direct mail campaign for the Library of Congress’s new magazine, Civilization. Several years later when they had a library to sell, they asked him to do it again. He declined the request, even though they had now been producing several years of content he had to work with. He said, “when the magazine didn’t exist, I could sell it as a concept. If I have to go in and read the issues, I don’t think it will be as good of an offer.”


To the contrary, we think it’s easy to promote something that already exists. To craft a promotion, you can peruse the last 2-3 years of issues and write persuasive copy that describes what’s already been published.

Promoting web libraries and collections with modern subscription marketing

The benefit of promoting content that already exists (like web libraries and collections) versus content that doesn’t (like print and upcoming web magazines) is that you can be specific in your promotions.

You may not know the headlines of your magazine for the next six to twelve months, but you know what’s already in your library. Therefore, you can name names, articles, and headlines. You don’t have to dance around what members will get, you can name specific content.

For example, if I’m the Biblical Archaeology Society selling my BAS Library, I can tell members more about what they will learn, specifically.

  • In What Did Jesus’ Tomb Look Like? discover who uncovered Jesus’ tomb, and how it was described.
  • In To Be Continued… , learn the nine versions of the ending of Mark, which can be found among the 1,700 surviving ancient Greek manuscripts and early translations of the gospel.
  • In The Search for Noah’s Flood, discover whether the Ark was really found in a mountainside of Pennsylvania, or if there’s truth to a massive flooding of the Black Sea 7,500 years ago.
  • In Was Noah’s Ark a Sewn Boat? Ralph K. Pedersen examines a passage on boat construction in the Epic of Gilgamesh and considers a boat type used in the western Indian Ocean for two millennia—the sewn boat. These examples provide a new understanding of what Noah’s ark may have looked like.
  • In “Can Scholars Take the Virgin Birth of Jesus Seriously?” J. Edward Barrett probes virgin birth stories, discussing problems of Hebrew/Greek translation, the contexts of the famous prophecies in the Book of Isaiah, and father-son relationships in the Jewish and Hellenistic worlds in Bible times.

BAS also does a great job at promoting their library by creating “special collections”  where they break up their best content into individual pages that summarize some of their best premium content. These pages can be used as marketing tools and the copy can double as email promotions.

If I’m Ceramic Arts Network promoting my all-access iCAN membership, I could promote the many facets of the membership by suggesting my email subscribers or sales letter readers sample content.

  • Experimenting with color options in clay gives potters a wide array of visual vocabulary you can pull from to better communicate your ideas. See the results of a wide variety of color play in Colored Clay Blends and Tests when you use our archive to view the May 2019 issue of Ceramics Monthly.
  • Teapots hold a special place in the hearts of potters and learning how to make teapots is a big milestone in any potter’s artistic development. Made up of multiple components—spout, handle, lid, knob, body, etc.—teapots pose an exciting but complicated challenge: how to make all of these parts work together as a cohesive whole. This compilation aims to help potters. Watch Four Approaches to the Teapot to take on the teapot challenge and master the form. Now available in Clayflix.
  • Learn the recipe for Ceramic Watercolors in our Ceramic Recipes collection. This recipe by Robin Hopper was originally published in his book, Making Marks and was more recently published in the February 2018 issue of Ceramics Monthly.

Since Ceramic Arts Network allows visitors to view three articles before showing them a paywall, they can even inject some of this promotion into the free daily email newsletters.

It’s a massive pivot for the magazine industry to be able to sell magazines the way books and encyclopedias have been sold forever. In modern subscription marketing, you can describe the content a member will get instead of hypothesizing what they may get.

This is a drastic change in how we market magazines. For most magazines, what you’ve already published is more valuable than what you’ll publish in the next 12 months.

    Kim M.

    Thank you for your comment Jeff! We agree that selling magazine subscriptions can include both pitching the archive and selling upcoming stories. Bill Jayme’s comment about launches is somewhat unique—in those instances, a copywriter has no library, so selling the idea of the magazine and its upcoming/future stories are critical. The main purpose of this post is to highlight how overlooked the libraries are for many magazines when it comes to copywriting. Thanks again!

    Jeff L.

    That copywriter would be Bill Jayme, correct? And what he was referring to was launches, I believe.

    As a subscription marketing copywriter myself, who usually promotes magazines that have been in print for years, I totally agree with you. But I apparently have more confidence in editorial calendars than you do. I use them to promise future benefits of articles that don’t exist — but are highly likely to exist — by looking at the most recent editorial calendar and referring to articles planned for the next couple of issues.


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