Subscription Website Publishing

The Periodical Subscription Website Business Model

The periodical website archetype is often associated with newspaper brands and other news periodicals that include trade papers like Computerworld and Variety.

Periodical subscription websites may also be called news sites, online newspapers, online magazines, online newsletters, or online journals.

How publishers succeed while using the periodical subscription website model

The periodical website archetype is often associated with newspaper brands and other news periodicals that include trade papers like Computerworld and Variety.

Periodical subscription websites may also be called news sites, online newspapers, online magazines, online newsletters, or online journals.

The one thing that separates a periodical website from its print parent is its archive – usually an incredibly deep, rich library of past articles to which references in later articles can be hyperlinked for greater context.

The periodical website is one of nine subscription website models that Mequoda has identified and defined.  We believe that it takes two to tango, and that with every premium subscription model there is an affinity model paired with it.

Premium (paid) subscription website models

Affinity (free) subscription website models

  • Community
  • Portal
  • Blog is, perhaps, the most impressive periodical subscription website success story. While the newspaper industry has generally adopted a free, advertising-supported, subscription website model—though still requiring registration— dug in its heels and, for more than a decade, has been a premium paid-subscription website.

The content, or news cycle, on actually updates every 30 minutes, making it a high-frequency periodical. A new home page pops up on a very frequent basis. Breaking news, blogs and a limited number of news articles are free, but most of the content is behind the paywall.

There’s a free stock researching tool – a simple one compared to the complex tools you pay for at other sites – but even the newsletters, usually free as part of a website’s conversion process, are available only to paid subscribers.


Periodical vs. portal vs. reference

A periodical website is often confused with a portal, such as, and a reference website, such as Let’s take a look at some of the differences, and why publishers might consider the periodical model for their own business.

Who Pays MIU Frequency % UGC Authors Taxonomy Homepage
Magazine User Article Low Low Many Issue What’s New
Newsletter User Article Low Low Few Issue What’s New
Application User Record NA Low Few Search What’s Popular
Club User Profile NA High Many Search What’s Popular
Periodical Varies Article High Moderate Many Subject What’s New
Reference Varies Record NA Low Many Subject What’s Popular
Portal Sponsor Post High Moderate Many Subject What’s New
Community Sponsor Post High High Many Subject What’s Popular
Blog Sponsor Post Moderate Moderate Few Subject What’s New

Who Pays: The periodical website usually requires users to buy a subscription to access most of its content. Autoweek is an example of this. When a publisher such as ComputerWorld can afford it, however, you’ll find a magazine website where the content is free. This is similar to a reference website, but different from a portal, which always delivers its content for free.

MIU: The Minimum Information Unit (MIU) is an individual article, and the content is organized by date and keyword topic (category). Adding photos, audio, video, or other documents enriches the article.

Frequency: The periodical website, like a portal, features frequently updated content, generally on a daily or hourly news cycle. A reference website is rarely updated. And when it is, unlike the other two, the updates may or may not be featured on the home or category pages – often the content of each article is simply updated to reflect new information without fanfare.

% UGC / Content generation: The periodical website and a portal feature content that is largely produced by the publisher, and some produced by users, such as “man on the scene” reporting. Reference website content is almost entirely produced by the publisher.

Number of authors: All the website models have many authors involved in generating content.

Taxonomy: All three of these website models are organized by subject, rather than by date of issue. Organizing by subject works because there isn’t as much content to organize as there is at, say, a magazine or newsletter.

Homepage: For the periodical and portal websites, with plenty of updated content, the focus of the page is usually “What’s New.” Because it has relatively little new material, a reference homepage will focus on “What’s Popular” — that is, what other users view  most often.

Additionally, a periodical website and a portal deliver content that is largely current, with little evergreen content. A reference website features almost entirely evergreen content. The periodical website focuses on selling a subscription to the website, just like the reference website. The portal offers no subscription at all.

The subscription focus and taxonomy, in case you’re wondering, are the key differences between the periodical website and a magazine website. The magazine website is focused on selling a print or digital edition of the magazine, not a subscription to the website. And it’s organized by issue of the magazine and date, not by subject.

Is the periodical website model the right one for you? If you have no legacy publication to sell, it might be the easiest way to launch a new product and simply focus your attention on selling subscriptions to the website.

Periodicals are also best suited for information that users read while they’re at their desktop or laptop, rather than on a tablet while relaxing after work. That means news and other information accessed at work, for example.

Are there other reasons to choose a periodical model over a portal or reference? Let me know in the comments, especially if you have first-hand experience with one of these models.

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