Digital Magazine Publishing

Subscription Marketing: How One Publisher Doubled Revenues in 12 Months

We are big proponents of both web magazines and web libraries, plus various collections and special issues that can be derived from them to create robust membership products. We recently had the privilege of managing all membership and subscription marketing for a long time publishing partner and winner of numerous community awards.

Our mandate was to dramatically increase their online membership and subscription revenue. After just 90 days, new online subscription and membership revenue went up by 130%. Compared to the year prior, new subscription revenue more than doubled in the months of November and December.

This accomplishment was a joint effort between the publisher staff, their fulfillment provider and our membership marketing team led by one of our veteran subscription marketers.


How our team engineered the result, clearly spells out the advantages that membership marketing offers when compared to subscription marketing.

To explain, we should begin by offering some clarity around the language we use to describe the differences in offers.

  • Membership offers include access to content that already exists, and in the case of this partner, spans across several decades and multiple publications.
  • Subscription offers sell future content that does not currently exist and will be delivered primarily as a print subscription.

Like most dramatic results, a complex array of factors are driving the increase in online revenue. Let’s take a look at what we believe are the top three drivers:

1. Higher conversion rates for membership offers

When we analyze our subscription marketing campaigns and compare the average result of a campaign that focuses on selling their membership product, these efforts generate response rates that are about 3x higher than similar efforts designed to sell subscriptions that focus on the current and future issues of the magazine. 

2. Higher revenue per order

With their all-access membership at $34.97 and the web membership at $29.97, revenue per order is 20 to 40% higher. This depends on which membership offers the consumer selects from the subscription marketing campaign when compared with a magazine subscription that sells for $24.97. As we’ve reported in the past, the two membership offers generate well more than half of the total response thus creating an average yield per order of $31.46 dollars which is an increase of 26% over the $24.97 subscription price.

3. More subscription marketing campaign options

Because the membership offers focus on library collections that already exist, our team worked with this publishing partner to create a new template called a Library Preview. This email framework is classic content marketing that leads with specific articles and collections that are immediately available to any new member who selects either the web or all-access options. In addition to this new format which is unique to the membership product, traditional spotlight marketing efforts and text ads in their daily and weekly email newsletters offer a three-legged outreach to the subscribers of their free online portal. This allowed us to maintain a weekly contact frequency of 13 which includes email spotlights, daily newsletters, weekly newsletters and what we call “extras” which are sponsor-driven native email newsletters.

With that frequency, many people ask us if it’s too much. Based on the high quality of content and the content marketing effort that is wrapped around these promotional messages, this publishing partner enjoys a monthly email retention rate of 96 percent.

To learn more about the strategies used above, read:

More to come from subscription marketing

Our team points out that our Six Sigma Marketing program has many more avenues to explore, including price testing, incentive testing and myriads of creative formats that can highlight various collections of content from this publishing partner’s web library.

Over the past 20 years, we’ve helped more than 300 niche publishers dramatically expand their business using our principles and processes to transform them into highly successful multiplatform publishing businesses. We’d love the opportunity to discuss how your organization and content can be paired with our software and marketing expertise to create similar results.

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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