How to Boost the Value of a Subscription Website

The more you can give a member of your subscription website, the better.

And it appears we’re not the only ones who think so.

Earlier in the week we talked about Condé Nast’s Wired Media Group who is launching a membership program for executives. According to Lucia Moses at Digiday, “for $4,000 a year, members of the Emerging Technology Council (and up to four of their colleagues) get access to in-person and virtual events where they can hear presentations by tech startups; join a 24/7 online community; receive a newsletter (likely monthly) and other perks. The first event, set to take place in January, will be a virtual discussion on intelligence and machine learning with Ars Technica founder and editor in chief Ken Fisher.”

This idea isn’t new. Let’s go back to basics. Just the other day I got direct mail from National Geographic. For $10 they offered me 12 months of the print magazine, 100% digital access to their entire archive for a year, a full-sized map, two special editions, and a tote-bag. In my world, $10 is a meal at McDonalds, two coffees at Starbucks, or a month of Netflix. That’s quite the offer and I took them up on it, even though I will probably never hang the map or bring the tote bag to the grocery store.


But $10 for all that? You can’t lose!

It’s that you can’t lose feeling you want to create. And it’s so much easier to do with digital products than physical products because there’s nothing to produce, package, or send.

We’re seeing mega club-type memberships begin to pop up in the publishing community. But even if you don’t include an event content model as part of your business like Conde Nast, there are lots of ways to bring value to your subscription websites.

The Paris Review

The magazine offers an extensive archive of back issues on their website, dating back to the 1950’s.

  • Selected interviews with writers are free to read.
  • Subscribers have full access to the online library.
  • Short stories, poems, and essays are collected into books.

We think all of this, including digital editions of the books, should be sold as one subscription.

The New Yorker

The magazine content is repurposed over 10 different platforms.

  • Articles are recorded for audio subscriptions.
  • Issue archives are available to subscribers.
  • Specific content is repurposed into apps.
  • The cartoon bank can be licensed.
  • Articles get turned into podcasts.
  • The New Yorker Festival gets turned into a series of videos.

We think all of this could be sold as one subscription, with special seating like they offer for Mastercard users, and access to at least one special session for members.

The way we see this model evolving is as a one-stop shop of content. An all-access pass, if you will.

As premium content and add-ons grow, you’ll find that publishers will begin to provide access through a central member login, where the member logs in and can read a magazine, browse book content, or watch video content. The publisher may sell each product individually on their site through a magazine content modelbook content model, or course content model, but with this model, they’ll bundle all products together with a universal-access membership.

In addition to products, members may receive additional benefits, like a book club model where you get access to HTML books, but also get shipped several print books at a regular frequency. Or, members may receive special access to live events, like in the Conde Nast example above.

And we don’t think this should be cheap. We’re not suggesting that $10 National Geographic bundle. We expect that these all-access passes will be over $40, and for many, in the hundreds or even thousands for niche and professional publications.

Starting today, think about how you can start creating an all-access product that not only helps build your community and keeps them engaged, but also drives more hands-off revenue for you.


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