Tips for Boosting Your Subscription Revenue Model

Improving your subscription revenue model on a per-user basis; plus, social media, the negatives of native advertising, and more

For digital publishers not fully reliant on ads – which hopefully is you if you’re aiming for high multiplatform performance – few components are as crucial as your subscription revenue model.

At Mequoda, we’ve spent a ton of time studying and writing about digital subscriptions, because we believe they’re a big part of the future of digital magazines.

Turns out, Business2Community has been doing some research, too, and they’re sharing it with the industry. Let’s start the week by seeing what they have to say on the matter!

Tips for Your Subscription Revenue Model

Mequoda Members will be familiar with many of these, but with the importance of subscription pricing strategies ramping up in the wake of advertising challenges like ad blocking and viewability, it’s worth reminding ourselves of subscription revenue model best practices.

B2C’s list of 10 includes bundling digital upgrades, creating a premium tier, ecommerce content strategy, event production, offering skills training, and more.

On adding products, Carolyn Morgan writes:

“A more radical approach is to add a completely separate premium-priced product and market to the subscriber database. The best examples of this are in B2B, where publishers identified a small group of buyers involved in high-value transactions. EMAP title Health Service Journal developed HSJ Intelligence, building on editorial insight, gathering together public and proprietary data, and creating an easy to use digital interface to provide a service for suppliers to profile NHS trusts. This was a big investment, but they sold £100k of subscriptions in their first month.”

On packaging discounts:

“Subscribers are a powerful audience of buyers. If you can negotiate discounts from key advertisers you can add value for subscribers – and potentially attract more advertising revenues too. Singletrack includes a discount card at specialist bike retailers for its premier subscribers. Student Beans, a website for students, has built an app allowing students to prove their ID and claim discounts from 7000 retailers nationally. The app is free but they have used it to attract new advertising clients for their website. So while this doesn’t directly grow subscriber revenue it is a useful retention incentive and can drive new ad revenues for the publication. Professional publishers can offer their subscribers special rates on legal services or specialist insurance.”

The Dark Side of Sponsored Content

There’s nothing wrong with native ads themselves, of course, provided digital publishers follow the rules, especially now that the Federal Trade Commission has issued new ones. But B2C cautions that reader affinity can atrophy if you cut corners.

“As we’ve been researching this phenomenon at ContentIntent, one thing we’ve noticed is the consistently miniscule labeling that many publishers give, saying something to the effect of “sponsored content” or “from our brand partners” in 10-point font. While the FTC has begun cracking down on misleading labels, many websites still try their hardest to make advertorial seem like real content,” Jonah Bliss writes.


“Our own research at ContentIntent shows that when readers are presented with dubious “news” like this, it diminishes their trust in the publication. Diminished trust can mean they return to browse that site less frequently, leading to increased financial stress for the publisher. That, in turn, can lead the publisher to turn to more and more dubious sponsored content to make ends meet.”

Measuring Social Media Referral Traffic in 2015

Social media strategy is all about getting readers in the side door of your site, and studies are showing that publisher efforts are paying off, B2C reports.

“Both social and search traffic drive referrals to publisher websites at different scales, and in response to different types of news stories. And although no two stories — and no two news topics — are exactly alike, digital publishers can look at some of the patterns that emerged from 2015 to help understand how their news will be distributed via search and social in 2016 and beyond,” Allie VanNest writes.

Monetizing Content: Four More Tips

You wouldn’t be here if you weren’t already monetizing content or looking for ways to do so. B2C discusses native advertising content, mobile publishing, and – above all – promoting content.

“Publishers can’t rely on sufficient ROI with minimal marketing. Recirculating content not only keeps traffic on your website, but also puts evergreen content in front of your audience to keep them interested. The ad units on your website don’t just have to promote advertisers’ content; they can also be used to engage your audience and inspire increased exploration of your site,” Ash Nashed writes.

“Once you’ve got interested visitors perusing your content, the likelihood of them engaging with ads increases. So, then, by increasing viewership on your website via content recirculation, you’re also maximizing your potential revenue from advertising.”

What’s your subscription revenue model? If it needs some work, download our free Subscription Website Model Handbook today!

To read more about subscription revenue model news and other industry trends, visit


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