Subscription Website Publishing

The 2021 Mega Trend Persists: Premium Membership Programs for Publishers

You would have to be living under a rock to have not noticed that premium membership programs for publishers are all the rage. After flirting with all forms of digital advertising, magazine, newsletter and website publishers have concluded that consumers will pay for premium content.

You’d have to be living under a rock to have missed the fact that premium membership programs for publishers have grown exponentially over the last 12-16 months. After flirting with all forms of digital advertising, magazine, newsletter, and website publishers have concluded that consumers will pay for premium content. Throw a pandemic in the mix, and they are even eager to pay for premium content.

In the second quarter of 2020, we learned that niche publishers saw a 79% increase in subscriptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When we ran year-over-year numbers in October, the publishing partners we work with saw growth anywhere from 30% to 108%. From the looks of it, people will be continuing to consume content more from home for the foreseeable future. In fact, in 2020 24 newspapers and magazines reached the 100,000 digital-only subscriber club, according to Press Gazette. In this group, some big magazines make the list: The Economist, Barron’s, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, Wired, and National Geographic. 

It is the outcome of a perfect storm. Amazon taught consumers to use credit cards, Apple got people to buy digital music and movies, and Netflix convinced them that paying for premium content was a good idea. Subscriptions boomed in 2020. It’s continuing in 2021. The election cycle and the Trump administration made it clear that there was news … and there was fake news. This has been extrapolated to high-quality content that is accurate and reliable, while other forms of content can be downright dangerous.

But what this data from Press Gazette shows us is that against the backdrop of dramatic paid subscription growth for streaming video services and newspaper websites, the magazine industry is making great strides in convincing consumers to pay for digital subscriptions. This once thought to be an impossible dream is now gaining speed at an incredible rate powered by changing consumer habits and new, inexpensive, web-based digital magazine publishing system technology.

The Value in Building Premium Magazine Membership Programs in 2021

The value of a digital magazine subscription that includes a web archive and great navigation far exceeds the value of any newspaper site to the consumer because the content is often so evergreen.
Many of the digital magazine systems we manage have more than doubled their total paid circulation over the past 12-16 months. These titles range from America’s first HTML web magazine, I Like Crochet, to newcomers like Recipe Lion and Food Gardening magazine. These premium membership services are anchored by digital magazines with deep web archives that include traditional magazine articles plus video and social media enhancements.
The magazine industry is retooling itself and consumers are responding by opening their wallets and pulling out their credit cards to gain 24/7/365 access to the types of special interest content that defines and betters their daily lives.

Moving into 2022, we are 100% focused on helping legacy publishers launch premium membership programs that leverage their brand, their content, and their customer relationships.

Here’s a deeper look at a few of the membership programs we’ve launched:

Food Gardening Magazine is the premier resource for food gardeners of all skill levels, to create your own food garden at home—with the advice and information you need to ensure that you grow, harvest, and enjoy fabulous food! Food Gardening Network includes not only all the gardening tips and advice you need to grow good foods, but also tasty and easy-to-prepare recipes for you to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Members get access to how-to, instructional content, and recipe videos, plus more than 40 plant-specific growing guides.

Recipe Lion Cooking Club leverages one of the country’s best-known online cooking brands with premium instructional content that is well prepared and inspirational. Subscribers to the Recipe Lion Cooking Club get 75 digital cookbooks in the library, filled with more than 900 recipes, instant access to the magazine library of issues and the upcoming year of issues, plus 300 step-by-step recipe videos with hands-on instruction.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac Club is dedicated to the almanac enthusiast who wants more than a print copy of the annual icon. Subscribers to this premium membership program get what they want most: the classic paperback edition of The Old Farmer’s 2022 Almanac. They also receive the digital edition and The Old Farmer’s Almanac: Your Local Almanac, plus a bundle of print bonuses including the 2022 Weather Wall Calendar, the 2022 Country Wall Calendar, and copies of the 1822 and 1922 Almanac editions!  Additionally, club members receive access to The Old Farmer’s Almanac EXTRA! and EXTRA! Library—a treasure trove of digital updates and Almanac content not found in the printed edition, including audio and video multimedia content.

As a 15+ year veteran of the publishing industry, I’ve learned that consumer revenue is more predictable and more compatible with the goals of most successful publishing organizations. Our content producers revel in producing high-quality accurate content that is completely aligned with reader needs. Suffice to say, that advertising revenue has no such alignment.

If more consumer revenue is what you’re looking for in 2022 and beyond, consider the above examples and how they might be inspirational for your organization in producing one or more premium membership programs that are dedicated to consumer needs.

If you’d like to discuss how we can help you transform your legacy brand into a 21st-century digital brand, schedule a time to talk with a member of our executive team about the possibilities. 

What have you been planning for 2022? Let’s continue this discussion in the comments below.

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By Kim Mateus

Chief Strategy Officer

Kim Mateus is Chief Strategy Officer for Mequoda Systems and the Mequoda Systems Content Network where she oversees strategic planning for the organization's 200 plus premium subscription products. Over the past decade, she has guided the development of more than 20 subscription marketing systems including I Like Crochet Network, New England Network and Your AAA Network. She and her team maintain an exhaustive best practices database of subscription marketing techniques and business processes that she uses to advise her clients and optimize the more than 60 websites that make up the Mequoda Systems Content Network. Kim is a frequent speaker at industry events and serves on the board of the Specialized information Publishers Association.

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