How to Turn Samplers into Subscribers

multiplatform publishing

In his book, Free: The Future of Radical Price, Chris Anderson wrote, “People often don’t care as much about things they don’t pay for, and as a result they don’t think as much about how they consume them. Free can encourage gluttony, hoarding, thoughtless consumption, waste, guilt, and greed. We take stuff because it’s there, not necessarily because we want it. Charging a price, even a very low price, can encourage much more responsible behavior.”

That’s why as savvy marketers, part of your job is to learn how to offer “free” without actually giving everything away.  When you’re selling memberships, there are three great ways of saying “free”:

30-day free trial…

This is the tried and true model, and it resembles the original magazine model that offers a free issue. When you’re selling a membership, instead of a free issue, you can offer a 30-day free trial, which gives subscribers access to everything for thirty days. But if you think this is the only way to say “free,” think again.

You’ve been gifted…

Prime Publishing is the originator of this strategy, and several of our publishing partners have since had similar success with it. An example comes from Yankee, who uses it to sell an all-access membership to their magazine. The subject line reads, “You’ve Been Gifted: 10 Years of Yankee Magazine.” The headline inside the email reads, “ACT FAST! Get 10 Years of Yankee Magazine Archives Free.” The copy explains that the reader can get six printed issues, six digital-only issues, full digital access to 10 years of Yankee archives, and bonus issues only available online. They click a big red “Unlock My Deal” button and are brought to a landing page where the full offer is revealed: 30 days of free trial access for all of the above.

Buy a membership and get all 10 for free…

In the past, we’ve talked about Cabot’s offer, and it’s just one more way of saying “free.” At Cabot, investors can get access to nine of their advisory newsletters for one recurring monthly fee. What’s unique about the offer is how they position it by saying that when a subscriber pays for membership, they get all nine for “free.” As we know, they’re not “free.” They are included in the cost of membership. It does sound appealing, doesn’t it?

The power of the word “free” is undeniable, and you should use it when you can. It might seem like publishers are based on a freemium model, and we give away so much through daily articles and free downloads. But as long as you are properly monetizing visitors through conversion architecture and a strategic email marketing program, it’s the best way to make money online.

If you’re a legacy magazine publisher, schedule a call with a member of our executive team and learn how we can partner with you to build highly profitable premium membership programs. Mequoda partners who have launched membership marketing programs over the last two years have seen revenues double, even triple, within 12 months.


    I like that “you’ve been gifted” idea, since it plays off the reciprocity instinct or whatever it’s called exactly, where someone who’s given a gift feels like they kind of “owe” the person who gave them a gift something in return. The 30 day free trial does that sort of, but I think specifically calling it a gift plays on that “instinct” even better.


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