Subscription Website Publishing

Niche Publishers See 79% Increase in Digital Subscription Sales During Pandemic

It may go down in history that despite a global pandemic forcing spending cuts and historical unemployment rates, that some U.S. publishers with digital subscriptions have started generating their best months ever.

Over the last month, we’ve been covering what publishers are doing to stay afloat with digital subscription sales during the COVID-19 pandemic, including the subscription marketing strategies every publisher should be adopting, and the subscription business models that are thriving.

Today, I’d like to share with you some uplifting data from our publishing partners from the last two months of the pandemic.

For March and April 2020, our publishing partners saw a weighted average increase of 79% in new digital subscription sales year over year. These folks aren’t selling hand sanitizer and toilet paper, they are special-interest publishers in niches from knitting to investing.

The New Yorker published an article recently called The Companies That Stand to Profit From the Pandemic, noting, “Even in the disastrous first quarter, 30 of the 500 stocks measured in the S&P went up. These firms are either positioned to meet the needs of the pandemic economy or have the resources to outlast competitors that will be more brutally affected, and some are at the forefront of efforts to prevent, cure, or mitigate COVID-19.” On that list are the obvious players for obvious reasons, like Citrix (video-conferencing), Amazon (essentials delivered), J.M. Smucker Co. (pantry staples), and Clorox (rigorous disinfecting).

But the hidden players from the list, are companies who are providing a sense of normalcy at home, helping them learn how to bake bread, or knit a blanket. OK, so Netflix is also on the list, but most people have reached “the end of Netflix” by now and are looking to get out of their pajamas.


How to increase digital subscriptions and start a digital media library today – like right now

If you have lost revenue due to canceled live events, people’s disinterest in receiving physical mail, or any other products that aren’t pandemic-friendly, it would behoove you to consider developing or improving your current digital media library.

The reason why there’s a 79% increase in new digital subscription sales across our fleet of publishers is because they have a good digital subscription product to sell — a robust digital media library filled with back-issues and curated special collections. And once it’s built, the effort to maintain it is minimal, but the profit margins increase every year as it grows.

If you don’t want to build one yourself but know you could benefit from this revenue stream if done correctly, stop reading and call us at (866) 713-1005 or register online to schedule a FREE 60-minute consultation. We’ll walk you through the rest and get started building your digital archive promptly.

Two digital libraries that are generating extra revenue for their publishers in two very different niches

If you need some convincing or want to try it yourself, let me walk you through a couple of the digital libraries that are included in those growth numbers you see above.

First, we’ll walk through a more obvious example of digital subscription sales success, a craft publisher, then we’ll show you a publisher on the total opposite side of the spectrum.

Let’s start with I Like Crochet, who recently hit 10,000 digital members—an admittedly easy example because they’re a subscription business that is ideally suited to thrive in a pandemic. People are crocheting everything from face masks to headbands with buttons that help keep traditional facemasks on without damaging the ears of nurses and doctors.

For many, crochet is also stress-relief, which is why any hobby-based site is well-suited for a stay-at-home order. This membership community celebrates the participants’ love of crochet, and their desire to master the skills and create beautiful artwork for friends and family. This all-digital community offers its members a deep archive of more than 700 well-tested crochet patterns, plus special designer patterns that have been selected by the editor. Premium members receive a weekly guided tour from the editor, focusing on both new and legacy content that is appropriate for the season and the current need to entertain oneself from home.

For the new hobbyist, they offer video tutorials, like 11 Essential Techniques and Stitches for Every Crocheter. For those still hoping for some normalcy this summer, they put together The Beach Collection, which features five complete patterns for a beach hat, beach dress, coverup, beach bag, and even a sunglasses bag. Instead of spending money per pattern in a pattern marketplace, they can save money by subscribing to I Like Crochet‘s Gold Club, where they get every pattern they’ve ever published since they launched in 2014.

I Like Crochet is benefitting from the recurring billing nature of their product, and people who are interested don’t need to wait for an issue in the mail (or the 3 days afterward where they let it “air out” on the porch). They can start accessing patterns immediately after subscribing.

If you’re thinking that the content in their digital media library is what’s helping them thrive, you’d be right, but the growth numbers mentioned above aren’t remotely limited to this one publisher: there are also investing publishers, regional travel publishers, historical publishers, and yes, other types of hobby and artist publications included in the calculation.

So let’s take a look at the opposite side of the spectrum, to our friends at Cabot Wealth Network, who also offer a robust digital media library and an incentivizing digital membership program. Cabot isn’t just for professional investors, in fact, their analysts do a great job of providing investment advice and anecdotes in plain-English, which makes their new and library content desirable for people who are concerned about this pandemic, but might be new to investing and considering it while the market is down.

The benefits of membership to seasoned investors are obvious: up-to-date stock advice that mirrors their model portfolios and access to their analysts. But in terms of growing their subscriber base during a pandemic of what may be a slew of new investors, Cabot’s digital media library offers two major Cabot Prime Pro member benefits: subscriptions to all fourteen of their main advisories, and VIP access to an analyst to help you make sense of them, plus access to an archive of questions asked by other members. Since Cabot is an advisory and not a portfolio manager or broker, members get advice from the analysts based on model portfolios that Cabot actually invests in.

People are thinking of their bank accounts right now, and with stimulus checks coming in, they are thinking of the best ways to spend them. For free, Cabot drives these leads in by offering a series of Investing Lessons, plus a series of free webinars, including one scheduled for May, called Rebalancing Your Portfolio After Coronavirus + Two Good Stocks to Buy Now.


The bonus points for every digital media library looking to increase digital subscription sales

Most of the publishers included in our growth calculation above are using two secret weapons: Special Collections and Content Previews.

Special Collections are a borrowed marketing tactic from the print world. In print, these 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, publishers can curate collections of digital content within their digital media libraries and call them Special Collections. Our content marketing specialists help our publishing partners build these collections using primary Google research data overlaid with the back issue archive to discover which topics support both the interest and the number of articles required to build a successful collection. The more collections we make, the smarter the algorithm and our content marketing specialists become at creating them and using them to generate new subscriptions.

But… how can you use premium collections to generate new subscriptions, you ask?

In come the Content Previews. Our Content Previews are sent via email and are also published on the web. The framework for Content Previews begins 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 media library premium members or links to a sales letter landing page for registered members who do not yet have premium access.

Several 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, is the lift that our Content Previews are transferring to our marketing Spotlights. When Previews are deployed on an existing library that is using marketing Spotlights, new orders from marketing Spotlights jump by 20 to 50% per month.

Content Previews delight both basic members and premium members with either unlimited or limited access to our Special Collections and generate email engagement rates that are double anything we’ve seen in the past.

Are you in a market that’s well-suited to thrive in a pandemic or other crisis?

It’s true that if you’re in a publishing niche that relies upon in-person events or international travel, it’s not a rose-colored time for business growth. However, if you ask us, we can probably think of a few ways even the most down-and-out publishers could increase digital subscription sales with a digital media library and increase revenue right now.

If you have a strong legacy print brand and an archive of evergreen content, we’d love to talk to you about creating a digital media library that leverages our collection and preview marketing strategy by turning old content into something brand-new and highly desirable for consumers across the globe. Schedule a FREE 60-minute call with us online, or call (866) 713-1005 to schedule.


By Don Nicholas

Founder & Executive Publisher

Don Nicholas serves as Executive Publisher for Food Gardening Network and GreenPrints. He is responsible for all creative, technical, and financial aspects of these multiplatform brands. As senior member of the editorial team, he provides structural guidance, sets standards, and coordinates activities with the technology and business teams. Don is an active gardener whose favorite crops include tomatoes, basil, blueberries, and corn. He and his wife Gail live and work in southern Massachusetts surrounded by forests, family farms, cranberry bogs, and nearby beaches. Don is also the Founder of Mequoda Systems, LLC, which operates and supports numerous online communities including I Like Crochet, I Like Knitting, and We Like Sewing.

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