5 Pitfalls of Publishers’ Subscription Strategies

subscription strategiesLooking for subscription strategies for your paid content? Start by avoiding these!

Formulating subscription strategies is now one of the most important processes a digital publisher can undertake. It’s also one of the most challenging.

Mequoda Members have their own best practices for establishing parameters for paid content, and all publishers have seen success and setbacks with paywalls, digital + print packages, and premium tiers. This week, the International News Media Association listed their five “worst practices,” as it were, while studying how one Swedish media house is thriving.

First, the pitfalls for publishers’ subscription strategies, according to the INMA and based on our interpretation:

1. Rushing to build a paywall. It’s essential to first know your audience – as well as their habits, preferences, and sending habits – before you haphazardly restrict access.

2. Thinking theoretically and not practically. A given digital subscription model – although great on paper – might not match up with your brand and content.

3. Keeping up with the Joneses at the expense of creative solutions. Copying what others in the publishing industry – namely those in your niche – are doing won’t put you in a better position, because it won’t offer consumers any benefits or advance the discussion.

4. Forsaking UX. Again, by definition, your readers must be onboard with any subscription strategies in order for them to work. Your paid content approach might be an airtight technical marvel, but if it doesn’t make qualitative and quantitative sense to the people visiting your site, it won’t be effective.

5. Shortsightedness and a lack of context. Your plan must be integrated seamlessly, and fit into the bigger picture of your product – at the same time strong enough to sustain a major shift for your website.

Download a FREE copy of 7 Ways to Monetize your Portal Audience, and discover how today's top publishers are generating revenue through memberships, events, clubs, sponsorships, and more.

We’ve all seen the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to subscription strategies from major U.S. digital magazines, but Västerbottens-Kuriren in Sweden might be a new one for you – and give hope to under-the-radar regional publications without a big budgetary margin of error.

VK‘s dedication to audience development and retention, along with their focus on multiplatform publishing, fostered a masterful transition to a subscription-based site that started three years ago.

“We had the whole company in on the change – eight teams working on all angles of paid-for content,” VK Deputy and Managing Editor Jessica Wennberg told the INMA.

“For example, we did audience research on transactions and value for digital, a new design on the Web site, new systems, we did extensive work on our publishing strategy, working out which content would be free/paid for over 150 different content types and scenarios. And we changed the way we worked, new technologies, even put in some new roles and simplified our processes.

In the end we did a considerable marketing campaign, which warmed up the readers to using both print and digital together.

We have higher reach than before paid-for and we have also more traffic than before and it has helped us with print subscriptions. Normally we would have 5.6% down but now we are only seeing around the 2% decline. It will be very interesting what will happen next year.

The work wont stop. We are already on our way to more. TV, tablet editions, new special apps. Paid-for content is just one milestone of many.”

Struggling with subscription strategies? Check out our free handbook Subscription Website Publishing!

To read more about pitfalls for subscription strategies, visit the INMA.


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