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Beyond Paywalls: 3 Ways Magazine Publishers Sell More Subscriptions

Magazine publishers who stop at metered paywalls are leaving money on the table

More than half of digital advertising dollars are now going to Facebook and Google, according to a recent report from Statista. Since most magazine publishers are competing for these dollars and losing the battle, the need for revenue from subscriptions increases every day.

Metered paywalls are the first major step for magazine publishers, but it requires more magazines jumping on board to be the most effective. When the general population stops expecting premium content to be free just because it’s online, people will begin to pay more.

Consumers are telling us loud and clear what they want—are you listening? How much would you pay for that information? Download a copy of our 2018 Mequoda Magazine Consumer Study for FREE instead, to find out how you can improve your digital magazine rapport with subscribers.

Ten years ago, nobody believed people would pay for music online. Music ripping services were abundant, and dorm rooms everywhere were using all the bandwidth available to download music for free to burn to CDs. When iTunes came on the scene, the ease of use, and the organization of paid-for music got the general population off of piracy, and into paying for music. Then Spotify revolutionized subscription-based access to music, and the general population became happy with paying for music they would never own.

The time is certainly now to take advantage of this shift in mindset, but the message is clear: people are happy to pay money for premium content on a subscription basis, but they want it all. That’s why some of the most effective ways of selling subscriptions now includes curation and bundling.

There are three major ways that magazine publishers are increasing the value of magazine subscriptions:

  • By creating all-access packages that include print, digital, and online archive access.
  • By creating super clubs, which include print, digital, online archive access, plus other bonuses like video libraries, event discounts, and more personalized services.
  • By creating special collections within their online archives, that curate content for subscribers regularly on their most popular topics.

How Magazine Publishers Sell More Subscriptions Secret #1: All-Access Subscriptions

For customers who want to access all premium content, but still like delivery of print, All-Access Subscriptions please the consumer and the publisher. For the publisher’s we work for, when priced correctly, the All-Access Subscription is their best-seller.

Using the concepts of overwhelming value and contrast pricing, an All-Access option encourages subscribers to choose the highest priced option you offer, which is also the best value for the consumer.

To make the offer work, you must have two or more subsidiary offers that each have a clear value proposition. In the example above, I Like Crochet is offering an introductory price of 23 cents per week (or $12 per year), the same price as the other two club memberships. Although the all-access club renews at a higher rate, the obvious choice here is clear — to subscribe to the all access and get everything for the same price.


Beyond Paywalls: 3 Ways Magazine Publishers Sell More Subscriptions

In the case of the Biblical Archaeology Society, they currently have two subsidiary offers which allow the consumer to choose a print subscription for $7 per year or library membership for $8 per year. The library membership offers overwhelming value in its own right as it includes access to more than 42 years of content including more than 30 special collections curated by the library managers. But for $1 more, they can get an All-Access Subscription for $9 per year and receive all the above. This type of offer consistently results in 65 to 70% of new orders coming in at the highest price with each of the subsidiary offers drawing 5 to 15% led by the digital library subscription.

How Magazine Publishers Sell More Subscriptions Secret #2: Super Clubs

Our client Cabot Wealth Network appeals to investors of all kinds. Most investors know that in order to make money in the market, you need to diversify your portfolio. So someone who subscribes to their Cabot Growth Investor may also be interested in Cabot Dividend Investor, and surely they’re interested in their Cabot Stock of the Week. 


Beyond Paywalls: 3 Ways Magazine Publishers Sell More Subscriptions

So for this type of investor, which is so many of them, they offer Cabot Prime, an all-for-one priced product which includes nine of their premium advisories. Each usually sells for anywhere from $297 to $997 each per year, but Cabot sells Cabot Prime for $197 per month. And to promote it, they tell their subscribers that they get all of the advisories for “free.” They also receive a load of extras like special access to an exclusive annual Wealth Summit, a dedicated investor relations representative, and access to their editorial team to ask for recommendations.

How Magazine Publishers Sell More Subscriptions Secret #3: Special Collections

Special interest articles are often quite evergreen and even those that show their age are often of interest as they reflect tastes and styles from an earlier time. A savvy curator may choose to focus on creating special collections around themes, and also take advantage of the depth of their library content to create collections that focus on coverage that is no longer part of the current magazine. Then, by promoting these special collections to their email list through library previews, they are able to attract new subscribers who want to view the premium content. 

Yankee magazine has 13 special collections, under a tab in their magazine website Travel Library called “Special Collections.” If it’s summer in New England and you’re looking for the best lobster rolls, or the best places to buy lobster, it might be overwhelming to search through their whole archive, so they created the  Ultimate Lobster Collection which features all of their lobster-related articles. Now, when a free email subscriber is shown this collection and clicks through to see it, they will be summoned to subscribe to view the premium content. Learn more about creating special collections, and why they’re beneficial, here.

Over the past two decades, we’ve guided more than 300 niche publishers through the process of transforming themselves from legacy print publishers into multiplatform operations that often dominate their industry niche and generate operating margins that surpass those created by their legacy print business. Learn more about how we can help you apply these strategies to your publishing business by scheduling a FREE consultation today.

Meet Us in Plymouth and Learn
How to Double Your Publishing Revenue

Join other senior publishing executives at the Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop—where you’ll learn how to plan, execute, and optimize a profitable magazine-driven membership marketing system. And how to double your publishing revenue!

Secure your registration now, while seats are available and Early-Bird Registration is open.

Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop

May 20-21, 2020
Mirbeau Inn & Spa
Plymouth, Massachusetts

This two-day membership marketing secrets workshop is intense—it’s not for the faint-of-heart, and it’s only for magazine publishing senior executives who have the vision and resources to grow their businesses.

This event is also for curious publishing executives who want the membership marketing secrets for publishers revealed—so that profits, growth, efficiency, and total transformation will power a magazine business that leads the industry and is the envy of competitors and collaborators alike.

You’re familiar with the growth and prominence of the emerging membership economy—you can see it daily as you interact with Amazon, Netflix, or even your local gym. And luckily, magazine publishers can learn a lot from others who have “paved the way” to condition consumers to buy memberships.

This is no fad, it’s a bona-fide trend that you should know about, understand, and latch on to membership marketing secrets for your own business’ purposes.

You should first know what isn’t a secret—having a metered paywall at your website. Yes, thanks to many news-oriented publishers, metered paywalls have become commonplace and are a powerful way to showcase your premium content and convert website visitors into buyers.

But having a metered paywall is not a secret. Who doesn’t know about metered paywalls or already have one for their content?

And simply having a website where you publish content is not the answer to staying competitive these days … let alone blowing your competition out of the water.

For that, you need to attend the Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop! You’ll not only learn about the membership marketing secrets, but you’ll also discover all the online publishing myths that often distract or derail many publishers from keeping their eyes on the prize—growth and profits!

When you attend the Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop, you’ll be among the publishing industry’s elite—those who are ahead of the trends and will know exactly how to optimize your publishing efforts, based on the latest business intelligence. There will be plenty of time for networking, too, so you can get to know your fellow publishing professionals!

The 7 Membership Marketing Secrets for Magazine Publishers

So that you don’t have to wait until our event, here’s a list of 7 membership marketing secrets:

  1. Web Magazine
  2. Web Magazine Library
  3. Curated Special Collections
  4. Leveraging Existing Content Platforms
  5. Content Previews
  6. Email Marketing Frameworks
  7. Landing and Offer Page Frameworks

And of course, much of the “secret” is not just having a list, but fully understanding what’s behind these secrets and learning what to do about them, so that your own publishing system is in alignment with all these secrets.

When you come to the Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop, you’ll learn about all of these in detail—and you’ll learn how to plan, execute, measure, and optimize your very own magazine-driven membership marketing system.

I promise you this now, too—when you register and attend our event, you’ll get 3 bonus membership marketing secrets. And while my colleagues prefer me to hold these bonus secrets back until you register, I can tell you they involve growing your audience, growing customer engagement, and growing revenue.

You’re probably wondering how I can make the claim that you’ll double your revenue when you register for our Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop. Well, Mequoda has been around for more than 15 years—and we’ve helped many magazine publishers over that time, including Prime Publishing, Yankee Magazine and Hearst Magazines … and we’ve counted AAA Northeast and the Biblical Archaeology Society as clients (non-profit membership organizations that both have magazines!).

The Agenda for Discovering the 7 Membership Marketing Secrets for Publishers

You’ll leave this event with a clearer vision and plan for transforming your magazine publishing business. Here is the agenda for the Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop:

Wednesday, May 20

  • Creating a New, Successful Membership Product
  • 3 Ways to Build Your Audience Marketing Database
  • Offer- & Price-Testing Strategies for Maximizing Revenue
  • How to Organize and Outsource Your Business Processes

Thursday, May 21

  • Building an Integrated Membership Marketing System
  • 4 Key Metrics for Measuring Your Success
  • Modeling and Budgeting Your Five-Year Plan
  • 3 Bonus Membership Marketing Secrets Revealed

For a full description of all the sessions, click here to download your FREE Program Guide.

This entire membership marketing secrets event will be led by me, Kim Mateus, as Chief Strategy Officer at Mequoda Systems. In 2004, I started with Mequoda as employee #2, and have since overseen strategic planning for many of Mequoda’s publishing partners. Having guided the development of more than 20 subscription and membership marketing systems, my team and I monitor and maintain a robust best-practices database of marketing techniques and business processes that helps power all Mequoda partner marketing programs. My focus on client content strategies is a natural extension of my journalism education and background.

And here is a high-level summary of the entire Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop:

WHO: Besides senior executives like you from magazine publishing companies, the Mequoda Systems team who will join me at this membership marketing secrets event are veteran publishing professionals themselves—you’ll have plenty of time for networking with your fellow publishing executives and with the Mequoda Systems team:

  • Don Nicholas, Chief Executive Officer
  • Bill Dugan, Chief Copywriter
  • Nancy Horan, Chief Systems Officer
  • Eileen Shea, Content Marketing Director
  • Norann Oleson, Analytics Director

WHEN: May 20-21 (it’s NEVER too early to sign up!)

WHERE: Mirbeau Inn & Spa in Plymouth, Massachusetts

For inn room reservations at preferential rates for our attendees, click here or call 833-MIRBEAU (833-647-2328) for room reservations.

WHY: Because the magazine publishing world is fast-changing and keeping up with trends can be a full-time job—this membership marketing secrets event will help you focus on only the key initiatives that will help drive growth for your business.

For a full description of all the sessions, speakers, and the venue for this event, click here to download your FREE Program Guide.

I’d tell you to “mark your calendar” for this event, but if you only do that you might miss out—we only have a limited number of seats for this exclusive event, so sign up right now.

I hope to see you in historic Plymouth, Massachusetts, in May 2020!


Kim Mateus
Chief Strategy Officer, Mequoda Systems
Program Leader, Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop

P.S. If you already know that this event is for you, sign up right now while seats are still available (this is a small event—we really only have space for a few dozen people). Register now for the Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop!

P.P.S. Prefer not to wait until 2020 to benefit from all these membership marketing secrets? If you have a sizable team at your organization who should hear all about this, email me at and let’s chat about accelerating the process for you and bringing this membership marketing secrets workshop on-site at your company.

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