One Good Reason Not to Have a Membership Website

Membership websites require content and effort – don’t attempt building one if you haven’t got either

While a Membership Website can be a profitable addition to a publisher’s online strategy, the decision to launch one must be carefully considered. If the publisher has been sponsor driven print, a Membership Website may be a bad idea unless the publisher can come up with some clever way to populate both a free website and a paid membership website.

Your free website includes your blog. Some publishers only repurpose print content, while many others create fresh original content to publish on their website, or Internet Hub as we like to call it. Your Internet Hub is the face of your brand. It tells people exactly what type of quality your content has, and whether it’s worth spending money with you.

The problem many publishers have when building a membership website is that they don’t have enough content to spread around. If you’re already publishing previously paid content on your free Internet Hub, why would someone pay for, say, a digital edition in your membership website. You have to offer more, or you really have no business creating one.

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Building a Membership Website associated with a magazine, newsletter, or book series always requires a great deal of forethought and evaluation, because the model doesn’t work for every publisher. Success involves much more than simply having an existing archive of issues and articles.

Great ideas other publishers have put into practice with their membership websites:

  • Fine Woodworking offers product discounts, guides, how-to videos and project plans exclusively to their members.
  • Cook’s Illustrated offers how-to recipe videos, 17 years of recipes from the magazine, equipment reviews and ingredient tastings.
  • Business & Legal Resources offers several different membership sites including a job description manager for HR professionals.
  • Mequoda (that’s us) offers all of our paid webinars on-demand for one low rate which includes access to both the live webinars and the online videos.

A Membership Website is, effectively, a massive encyclopedia on a particular topic. It requires a robust amount of online content—perhaps 5,000 to 8,000 pages at launch, climbing into the tens of thousands of pages as time goes on. If the publisher doesn’t have access to a ton of evergreen content that is valuable, searchable, and organized in a library-like fashion, then that publisher probably shouldn’t even be thinking about launching a Membership Website.

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