What Are Subscription Websites?

Subscription websites include any site that withholds some amount of access of its content for registration

Many subscription websites charge a fee to access the premium content found behind the paywall, which is why subscription websites are among the most profitable websites on the web. And it’s not just publishers who are creating them – although the brands and startups who are, might consider calling themselves publishers sooner or later.

And there’s another reason why subscription websites are growing in popularity: consumers are adopting digital editions rapidly, and as mobile and tablet devices become increasingly popular, subscription websites are being used at the core of the modern publishing revolution.

If you’re considering starting your own subscription website, here are some tips and links to more in-depth articles on each topic:

1. Pick the right subscription website business model.

You might just see them as tabs on your website, but each subscription product has its own business model. Choosing your content focus is a business-critical decision, as the focus you choose pretty much dictates your chances of success with a subscription website. However, more serious than the focus of a subscription website is the business model. Not considering the subscription website business model is a major mistake some publishers make. 

2. Determine your minimum information unit.

Do you publish articles? Data and records? Profiles? Your Minimum Information Unit (MIU) is your key piece of content. It’s what gets published, it’s what people are subscribed to. We often write about repurposing and recycling your MIUs – articles become chapters in books, excerpts become blog posts, and so on.  That’s because your MIU is the golden egg of your business. And you must deliver it to consumers in a way that’s simple, functional and convenient for users – and that drives revenues and satisfies your business goals.

3. Will you build a Portal to go with your premium subscription website?

In most cases, the answer is yes. All premium subscription websites work better when they have a free counterpart, and a portal drives inbound traffic best, in order to sell access to your subscription website.


4. Explore the most profitable subscription websites for a role model.

If you want to create the perfect premium content subscription at your subscription website, use CooksIllustrated.com as a mentor site, because it meets all of our criteria. This subscription website is, after all, a resounding success in the tremendously crowded cooking space. Its continued success there tells us that this is indeed the perfect premium content subscription website.

5. Think about a magazine subscription website as your first logical step.

A magazine subscription website archetype is set up to build subscriptions for a related print or digital magazine and to provide access to issues of the magazine. A magazine 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.

6. Determine what you’re going to sell it for.

While the challenge of choosing the right subscription and single copy pricing strategy is not new to magazine publishers, it’s virgin territory for most subscription website publishers and many publishers exploring the digital newsstand landscape.

If you’ve gotten this far, leave a comment and let me know the most important thing you should think about when building a subscription website. If there’s anything holding you up, or if you have any burning questions, I’m listening!


    Good article. It’s an eternal dilemma for publishers n how to monetize digital. This article shows the way forward in getting folks to charge for content and not rely on ads alone. We at Wiselywise.com are experimenting with different models and see that the business model is key, not the technology. Be sure on what comes first , you can always buy the technology.


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