How Subscription Websites Bring in Publishing Revenue with Little Spend

For print magazines and newsletters, subscription websites offer a plethora of ways to gain publishing revenue with little upfront cost

Legacy publications should be ultra focused on how to create dynamic sources of publishing revenue online. Most print publications already have a digital edition available, but it’s time to take an extra hard look at developing a multi-platform strategy.

We recommend a subscription website with one goal in mind: driving more subscriptions and sales to your publications and products.

Here’s the great news: the overall cost of making your premium content (print issues) available online is far less than the publishing revenue you’re likely to receive.

At Mequoda, we identify three main subscription website business models; a portal website, a magazine website, and a newsletter website.

In this post, we’re going to focus on the last two, and how they can leverage more publishing revenue for legacy magazines and newsletters.

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Subscription websites for magazine publishers (we’ll get to newsletters next)

A subscription 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 regular frequency, and can be viewed in HTML, downloaded as a PDF or downloaded to a mobile device.

With that definition in mind, let’s consider how these websites can build publishing revenue for print magazines. There are a few main benefits that users receive when they gain access to a subscription website, features having only a subscription in print cannot provide.

  • Access to an archive of back issues.
  • Online communities where they can share content with other members.
  • Premium video content.
  • The ability to access all issues and content from their tablets, mobile phones, and computers.
  • Often times, at least in the case of Mequoda publishers, there is also a web magazine.

What’s more: there is little cost to a publisher in making this content available online.

In fact, since they created all the content already for the print issue, almost all of the labor is already completed. At the end of the day, the only cost you’re looking at is the development and maintenance of a user-friendly website and experience, and then the cost of uploading the current issues (and back issues) when you publish.

Our favorite example of a high-performing magazine website is one of our gold member clients, I Like Crochet. Mequoda created for its innovative publisher and longtime client, Stuart Hochwert, what we believe is the first-ever actual website magazine. Through a magazine subscription website, I Like Crochet magazine is available as a website edition, complete with page-by-page navigation and a linear magazine reading experience available on any platform or device with Internet access. It’s also available as a tablet edition.

The web magazine, print edition, and access to the website can all be bundled together for various subscription packages.

Subscription websites for newsletter publishers

A newsletter subscription website is set up solely to sell subscriptions for a related print – or, even cheaper to produce, digital – newsletter. Often, the site also provides access to archive issues of the newsletter. A newsletter website is commerce-based, with an overall objective of increasing product sales and providing customer service to existing subscribers.

Similar to magazines, newsletter subscription websites can increase publishing revenue by offering access to the features not available in print. Also, just like we outlined above, the upfront costs to develop the site, along with the ongoing costs to maintain the site and upload current issues, are minimal.

The actual cost of producing print issues–for a newsletter and magazine–can become quite expensive, cutting into your overall gross. But uploading content onto a website that’s viewable to subscribers is a one-time expense; that content continues to make money over time (when included in an archive).

So let’s say you have a newsletter subscription website featuring an online archive and premium content that is user-friendly. You also have a web portal to promote the subscription website and drive web traffic with recycled content. On top of that, you have the original print issues in regular frequency and a downloadable app so subscribers can view content on their tablets and smartphones.

How does this all work together to create publishing revenue and drive more sales? The answer is utilizing contrast pricing within your subscription package offerings. A perfect example of this would be a Mequoda gold member client, The Dark Report.

In their subscription packages, this niche newsletter publication is able to create three sellable products out of one, and the more digital they go, the more profit they realize.

  1. Print only membership: $15.27 per week
  2. Digital only membership: $19.12 per week
  3. Platinum membership (print + digital): $22.97 per week

If you add the first two packages together ($34.39), you clearly see the platinum membership offers great value. You get both for two-thirds of the total price. If a subscriber upgrades to a digital-only membership for $3.85 more per week, the subscriber gets the added value of a large archive, but Dark Daily isn’t paying much to deliver content to that customer at $19.12 per week. And if they upgrade to the print and digital combo, they’re paying $7.70 more per week, but again, Dark Daily is not spending much more to gain that revenue.

How do you increase revenue through multi-platform publishing? Do you have any questions or specific examples to talk about? Share your thoughts in the comments section!


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