The sacred elements of any best-practice online magazine business model
Literary perfectionist Gustav Flaubert once said “our ignorance of history makes us slander our own times.” He was right on the money here and not just in his never-ending quest to find “le mot juste” (“the right word”) in a sentence. Finding the perfect word, he believed, would lead to the Nirvana of written quality. Dramatics aside, the main lesson here is one that we all know well: History is important, especially when building an online magazine business model.
Putting aside the theatrics, we turn to perhaps the furthest subject from a deceased French writer: subscription websites, specifically on the subject of the historical print business model. Creating a subscription website tied in with a magazine, newsletter or book series is a lot of work. They are usually more expensive to build than other website models and their success requires a lot more than just an archive of old issues.
However, sometimes having a 24/7 online encyclopedia of information available to your users is worth it. If you’ve already decided to make a subscription website a part of your online publishing strategy: That’s great.
Identifying your magazine assets to turn them into an online magazine business model
Every story is an asset, whether that story was published in a magazine, newspaper or book series. Of course, a publisher wants to take as much advantage as they can upon that asset, and if in the past they have capitalized on the asset by selling advertising, it’s not too far of a leap to see that the economics favor an ad-driven online publishing strategy.
So, we turn to history, the economic history of the existing print publishing business, that is. The amount of available content doesn’t matter here, only the moneymaking economics that worked in the past matters. In order for an advertising-driven website model to work, the content in most cases must be given away free to generate the largest audience for the advertisers.
When content is given away for free, we call this subscription website a Portal. Fortunately for free sites, delivering the content for free maximizes page views, which leads to better advertising and sponsor revenue. When the content is only available if paid for, it limits page views significantly, not to mention leading to a decrease in advertising opportunities and competitiveness.
The conclusion here is that a free site attracts the most advertising revenue because it will get the most viewers through search engine traffic and any type of “members only” subscription website is likely to lose that advertising revenue but can prevail if the product is valuable enough to be supported by the wallets of its users.
Benefits of a subscription website for your online magazine business model
None of this is to say that the paywall model does or doesn’t work though. We typically pair a free Portal with a paid magazine subscription website. The magazine subscription website is set up to build subscriptions for a related print or digital magazine and to provide access to issues of the magazine. When the Internet dawned, it was one of the first subscription websites invented, as mass media magazine publishers quickly jumped on the bandwagon.
A website is only a magazine website if the user can view or download an issue of a magazine – one that is linear and periodic, has pages and a regular frequency, and can be viewed in HTML, downloaded as a PDF, or downloaded to a mobile device.
A Mequoda best practice magazine subscription website includes a web magazine and an online archive or library, so that when the subscriber logs in, they can view the magazine in HTML on any device, or download a copy and print, and they can access old issues in a library format that can be read in HTML or downloaded as well.
Creating an online magazine library through a magazine subscription website is one of our favorite multiplatform publishing platforms because it’s such a profitable resource.
If you have been considering adding an online magazine and library to your roster of platforms, in addition to your digital magazine and print magazine, here are a few reasons we recommend moving forward:
1. The content for your online magazine library already exists. If your magazine has been in business for 10 to 20 years or longer, then you have a mighty back issue archive to digitize, but it will become your greatest resource of new content and passive income.
2. The library content is free (for you). The content already exists, which means the content is free. You might have thousands to hundreds of thousands of articles of free content. The content still needs to be webified and edited, but it’s now technically free, or at least paid for.
3. Your online magazine library makes money while you sleep. Every month, or week, or however often you update, your online magazine library will get updated with the newest content. Otherwise, once your back archives and articles are uploaded, they don’t need to be updated, and you can generate additional revenue from this platform without added effort.
4. Your online magazine library content doesn’t need to be optimized for the web. This is the first and only time we won’t tell you to optimize something for the web – because all of this content is behind a wall, and Google can’t search it anyway.
5. Your online magazine library can be recycled into your free Portal. The free articles you give away on your Portal are used to promote your magazine subscription website (which hosts your online magazine library). This means you can repurpose content from the library into your blog. It also means you have to SEO the posts!
6. Your online magazine library is an upsell. Once your library is jam-packed with content for decades, you have a pretty lofty upsell. With contrast pricing, you can add significant additional revenue. Just take a look at Biblical Archaeology Society, who sells their digital magazine for $19.95, the library for $29.95 and a bundle of both for $34.95. Now, $34.95 contrasted with $19.95 seems pricey, doesn’t it? But if you’re like most buyers, you’ll also spot the $29.95 price compared to the $34.95 price – and now $34.95 doesn’t seem so high. Hey, it’s just $5 more … and you can get what’s behind Door #1 and Door #2 for that extra $5! Might as well go for it!
7. Your online magazine library is easy to search. With search functionality implemented, your editors can always go back and quickly find information for new articles. Or maybe your farming magazine wants to write about what the price of feed was back in 1950? Dig up an old article! You’re now your own reference library.
8. It practically promotes itself. Don’t be shy about posting snippets from noteworthy, historical articles in your archive. You’re free to tease non-subscribers with the content they can only get their hands on if they subscribe. With so much content, you have much promotional material to work with.
Are you ready to launch your magazine subscription website? Talk to us first. We’ll show you how to plan, build and optimize a successful multiplatform publishing business – the Mequoda way.