The Digital Media Library of 2021 is Going to Change Everything for Publishers

Five ways to delight premium digital subscribers with a new digital media library - plus the results of our trial and error building them for the last several years.

8 Ways to Sell Digital Magazine Subscriptions

There is simply no substitute in subscription marketing for a great product that delights customers by engaging them repeatedly with topical content that enlightens and entertains. The best new premium subscription website business model we’ve seen does all of that and more. A well constructed digital media library and companion marketing program can rapidly build a new base of loyal premium subscribers and generate high marginal profits for its owner.

As recently as three years ago, we were still building digital media libraries that were focused on the most current issue of the magazine or newsletter associated with that brand. In most cases, these brands also had a legacy print product, and we were simply mimicking the user experience in a digital environment. The digital environment immediately offered quicker delivery and access to a vast archive that can be searched by users. Still, our analytics indicated that most digital subscribers were reading the current issue on the device of their choice, and paying little attention to the vast library of articles from back issues.

The Digital Media Library of 2020 is Going to Change Everything for Publishers

Carefully curated special collections keep interest

The breakthrough came by borrowing a marketing tactic from the print world, often called a bookazine or a magalog. These special interest publications were compilations of the most popular articles from a given print magazine or newsletter that were compiled into a new evergreen product that was often sold on the newsstand and not made available to existing subscribers.

By using the same format, we began creating carefully curated collections of digital content within these digital media libraries and called them Special Collections. Our content marketing specialists used primary Google research data overlaid with the back issue archive to discover which topics supported both the interest and the number of articles required to build a successful collection. The more collections we made, the smarter the algorithm and our content marketing specialists became at creating best-selling Special Collections.

While we initially made the Special Collections available as part of the premium website subscription to our digital media libraries, we also took a shot at selling them individually.

We discovered there was no merit in this approach. It caused us to double down on exploring how we could better use our special collections to generate new premium subscribers. Our content marketing specialists invented a new content marketing framework that we now call a Content Preview.


The Digital Media Library of 2020 is Going to Change Everything for Publishers

Content Previews drive massive engagement

Our Content Previews are sent via email, and for some of our publishing partners, also published on the web. The framework for Content Previews begin with a summary of one of the most popular articles in a Special Collection. This introduction is followed by a list of additional articles from the same Special Collection, and either links into those Collections for digital library premium members, or links to a sales letter landing page for registered members who did not yet have premium access.

Most of our libraries use an onboarding process to create new basic members from their corporate database, and thus we often have tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of basic members who have limited library access: typically, three premium articles per month plus unlimited access to the content previews.

Our Content Previews have now proven to be responsible for the most substantial lift in new premium subscribers when compared to our older libraries that simply send out two or three traditional marketing Spotlight emails per week. Perhaps most surprisingly, was the lift that our Content Previews transferred to our marketing Spotlights. When content previews were deployed on an existing library that had only been using marketing Spotlights, new orders for marketing Spotlights jumped by 20 to 50% per month.

Thus delighting both basic members and premium members with either unlimited or limited access to our Special Collections, generates email engagement rates that are double anything we’ve seen in the past.

The Digital Media Library of 2020 is Going to Change Everything for Publishers

Regular issues continue to perform

Not surprisingly, some of our most productive content previews feature a new issue being added to the library. Historically, these have been called new issue announcements and were designed to preview an issue and remind premium subscribers and free subscribers that a new issue was available to read.

The Digital Media Library of 2020 is Going to Change Everything for Publishers

Searchable article archive and keyword indexes are user-friendly

Both premium and basic subscribers are also able to use the internal search functionality for our digital media libraries to use keyword phrases to find niche topics of particular interest to them. In addition to the internal search function, all articles are also tagged for popular keywords allowing users to cross-reference articles on similar topics.

Once again, our digital media library empowers users to perform searches not available to them when they were simply archiving their back issues on a shelf.

Digital media library publishing services

After three years of trial and error, we’ve been able to create a well-organized process for both creating new derivative content needed to power a successful digital media library, and the associated content marketing best practices to generate thousands of new premium subscribers efficiently.

We’re also in the fortunate position to have several digital media libraries that are now old enough to give us year-over-year data, including conversion and renewal performance.

As noted above, the one-two punch of Special Collections and Content Previews has enabled us to create engagement levels that justify subscription prices that are typically 20 to 50% higher than comparable legacy print subscriptions. Credit card continuous service conversion rates are also typically 30 to 50% higher, enabling most of our digital media libraries to move directly from introductory pricing to full price just 12 months into the subscription at the conversion milestone. These economic factors create new revenue streams that are delightful in their own right.

We’d love to share all that we have learned in the past three years about creating and marketing successful digital media libraries, and explore how we might apply that learning to one or more of your legacy magazines or newsletters.

As a Mequoda member, you’re entitled to a free 30-minute consultation with Don and me to discuss what we know and how we might partner to create a new, highly profitable revenue stream for your organization. Schedule your free consulting session. 

And if you’d like to check out a few of our flagship products where we’ve honed our best practices, check out I Like Crochet, Yankee Magazine and the Biblical Archaeology Society library.


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