Publishers Double Subscription Revenue with this Magazine Archive Strategy

How your peers are doubling or even tripling their subscription revenue with a digital media library marketing program

subscription revenue

Over the past three years we’ve had the privilege of launching digital media marketing programs for more than 100 premium subscription products looking to increase their subscription revenue. Many of these premium subscription products were built by our engineering team and others were built by independent developers where we simply provide marketing services.

For the purposes of this post, we’re going to focus on subscription websites that already have one or more digital media libraries, and are launching a new high-frequency, multi-framework digital media library marketing program. We’ve been doing this long enough to have now collected year-over-year performance data where online subscription revenue increased by as much as 274% and is routinely being doubled or tripled.

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Digital media library content features

Three years ago, we were building digital media libraries which simply aggregated magazine issues, newsletter issues, and entire books to create a user experience that emulated their print user experience with the addition of search. Most users simply were reading the most current issue of the web magazine or web book and not focusing their attention on the archive of what is often thousands of pages of content.

As we pondered the vast content in these digital media libraries, we decided to create special collections of topical content that was chosen manually by our marketing team. 21 Must-Visit New England Towns and Villages for Yankee, The Best Baby Crochet Patterns Collection: 5 Little Designs for I Like Crochet, and The Historical Jesus for The Biblical Archaeology Society are examples of the kinds of collections we created working with our publishing partners. Then, we created companion content previews for each collection which focused on one of the articles in the collection, listed a bunch more and then made the pitch to become an all-access subscriber which included new magazine issues and unlimited access to the digital media library.

Both the special collections and content previews were added to the website with many hyperlinks into the premium content. Metered paywalls were also added to allow unpaid website members to view a limited amount of premium content.

Before the introduction of special collections and content previews, most of our publishing partners were sending two or three email campaigns per week which promoted all-access membership including the upcoming issues and digital archives.

Tripling online subscription revenue

Our digital media library marketing program continued with three spotlights per week, and added three content previews via email, plus a weekly summary that included both subscription offers and snippets from the three previews that had been mailed earlier in the week. We often started off with 10 to 15 special collections and companion content previews and began adding two or three more per month.

Sourcing the increases in revenue

  • The new content previews were the number one source of additional subscription revenue accounting for anywhere between 40 and 60% of the total lift.
  • Conversion rates for the existing email spotlights increased by 20 to 50% accounting for another large bump in subscription website revenue.
  • The newly added metered paywall generated another 20 to 30% lift in online subscription sales. About 17% on average of website traffic was coming from the premium content within 12 months. The various email spotlights, previews and weeklies were also driving traffic into the metered paywall allowing non-paid website members to see up to three free articles per month. The high contact frequency quickly exhausted their free articles and led to additional increases in subscription revenue.
  • The content previews were also posted on the website after being fully optimized for search. These led to additional traffic and another 5 to 10% lift in overall subscription revenue.
  • Finally, we introduced dynamic offer management which enabled us to make low-priced introductory offers to non-buyers, higher-priced upgrade offers to print subscribers, and full-price renewal offers to existing all-access members.

Focusing on those who tripled their online subscription revenue, we would see that from a base of around 700 new subscriptions per month, our digital media library marketing program lifted response so that now we were seeing somewhere between 2000 and 3000 new orders per month, plus upgrades for print subscribers as an added bonus.

Along the way we discovered seven email spotlight frameworks that outperform the pack, a myriad of ways to use content previews to focus on premium website content, and a methodical way to top-grade the collections being previewed to maximize subscription website revenue over the long term.

Our digital media library marketing program now represents the number one source of subscription revenue for many of our publishing partners. The additional volume is great, and much higher prices with credit card continuous service retention rates also boost subscription website revenue dramatically.

One of our legacy publishing partners introduces new direct mail sold, print-only subscribers at a $10 rate and then slowly steps them up so that they are paying $29.97 after three years. Our all-access online offer program also starts at $10, but converts at $39.97 after just 12 months. With this business model, we quickly see that 30,000 all-access subscribers can generate $1 million in annual revenue based on the mix of new, conversion and renewal orders.

If you’ve built a website that includes premium magazine, newsletter, video or other premium content, and are not generating the kind of sales volume we’re describing above, we should chat about implementing a digital media library marketing program for your website. For our current publishing partners, the return on investment is often the brightest star in their sky.

We’d love to share all the details of what we’ve learned over the last three years about marketing premium digital content using a disciplined, data-driven content marketing program. Schedule a call with us today, to see how we can help. 


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