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How to Price Your Magazine Membership

How to use the principles of economic behaviorism, contrast pricing, and Six Sigma marketing to maximize magazine membership revenue and renewals

Earlier this week, we discussed how savvy publishers are combining their legacy magazine subscriptions with magazine libraries to create magazine memberships using the Internet.

Now we’ll we take a look at how publishers can use contrast pricing and the principles of economic behaviorism to maximize revenue and retention rates.

For this discussion, let’s take a look at the Biblical Archaeology Society; their magazine subscription and their magazine library. This case study also offers the opportunity to see how a print magazine subscription and a tablet magazine subscription are managed as part of a larger magazine membership.

The Biblical Archaeology Society has shown tremendous growth year after year since implementing the Mequoda Method, starting back in 2010. They are a very old prestigious organization and magazine brand (Biblical Archaeology) that, like most niche magazines, decided to go through the Mequoda transformation after seeing traditional direct mail and newsstand sources decline in sales, just like most magazine brands.

With the launch of  Bible History Daily in 2011, they welcomed an entirely new global audience online through their free portal, plus the subsequent launch of the BAS Library, an online archive including over 40 years of Biblical Archaeology Review (1975 to present), 20 years of Bible Review (1985 to 2005 complete) and 8 years of Archaeology Odyssey (1998 to 2006 complete).

Here’s an interesting test result that may help you in your magazine marketing endeavors.

About a year and a half ago, we had the privilege of taking over all membership and subscription marketing for the Biblical Archaeology Society. Our mandate was to dramatically increase their online membership and subscription revenue. After just 90 days, new online subscription and membership revenue increased by 130%. Compared to the the year prior, new subscription revenue more than doubled.

What changed? We sold the magazine membership, not the magazine subscription.

When comparing the average result of a campaign that focuses on selling their membership product, BAS Library these efforts generated response rates that were about 3x higher than similar efforts designed to sell subscriptions which focused on the current and future issues of the magazine.

The magazine subscription was for sale at the price of $24.97, so with an all-access membership at $34.97 and the web membership at $29.97, revenue per order grew 20 to 40% higher.  As we’ve reported in the past, the two magazine membership offers generate well more than half of the total response thus creating an average yield per order of $31.46 dollars which is an increase of 26% over the $24.97 subscription price.

Testing is always going on at BAS, so you may not always see that exact offer, but it’s the one that consistently drives the highest revenues, and there are many pricing options available that can be tested and rotated to maximize revenue and retention rates, for any magazine. 



Learn how to choose the best subscription pricing & single-copy pricing strategy for your subscription websites & subscription apps when you download a FREE copy of How to Use Contrast Pricing to Increase Subscription Revenue.


Another example is the American Ceramic Society, where, over the last ten years, we’ve helped double their total revenue.

We built and optimized a completely integrated online marketing and publishing system for them which allowed them to increase their paid product inventory. Today they are a fully integrated membership marketing system that includes four subscription offers, hundreds of individual products, and a membership product that allows them access all the benefits of being an International Ceramic Artists Network member for 12.97 per month.

The cost of $12.97 per month isn’t a high ticket for any product, in fact a subscription to Netflix costs more. But for that price, members get every edition of their magazines, plus CLAYflix, their instructional video streaming service, a huge database of ceramic recipes, mentoring, discounts, and waived entry fees into contests. For the professional ceramic artist, $12.97 per month is a small fee, and it’s one that helped double their revenue in under three years.

University Health News is a third example. University Health News launched on our Haven CMS in May 2016 and saw a 35% increase in organic traffic over 12 months. UHN is a leading resource of research-backed health information from leading medical schools, hospitals and health centers. Their content is written by doctors, health writers and medical editors.

UHN has eight premium publications, each with their own membership websites, where subscribers can choose a web subscription $1.67 monthly, billed annually, or the print edition for $2.07 monthly, billed annually. For forty more cents per month, subscribers can choose all-access membership where they get access to both for $2.47 monthly, billed annually. Like the examples above, the choice of just 40 extra cents per month is easy for most consumers.

To keep revenue increasing beyond this initial boost, we launched a Six Sigma marketing campaign. We’ve written extensively about Six Sigma offer testing in the past.

In the first 30 days using Six Sigma, we increased their system revenue by 50%. With over 24 products in total, the Six Sigma framework helped to figure out which creative would provide optimal performance for each of the products.

The point I’m making with the examples above is that the answer to magazine membership website marketing’s biggest question of how to price, isn’t a single answer. It lies at the end of a series of tests that tempts your audience with different offers and copy.

The exact price is up to your audience to decide, however the principles of contrast pricing, and economic behaviorism should be learned and used as a part of that offer development, and a methodical Six Sigma marketing plan should be deployed to find out what does the best job of increasing revenues and renewals.

Over the past two decades, we’ve guided more than 300 niche publishers through the process of transforming themselves from legacy print publishers into multiplatform operations that often dominate their industry niche and generate operating margins that surpass those created by their legacy print business. Learn more about how we can help you apply these strategies to your publishing business by scheduling a FREE consultation today.

Meet Us in Plymouth and Learn
How to Double Your Publishing Revenue

Join other senior publishing executives at the Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop—where you’ll learn how to plan, execute, and optimize a profitable magazine-driven membership marketing system. And how to double your publishing revenue!

Secure your registration now, while seats are available and Early-Bird Registration is open.

Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop

May 20-21, 2020
Mirbeau Inn & Spa
Plymouth, Massachusetts

This two-day membership marketing secrets workshop is intense—it’s not for the faint-of-heart, and it’s only for magazine publishing senior executives who have the vision and resources to grow their businesses.

This event is also for curious publishing executives who want the membership marketing secrets for publishers revealed—so that profits, growth, efficiency, and total transformation will power a magazine business that leads the industry and is the envy of competitors and collaborators alike.

You’re familiar with the growth and prominence of the emerging membership economy—you can see it daily as you interact with Amazon, Netflix, or even your local gym. And luckily, magazine publishers can learn a lot from others who have “paved the way” to condition consumers to buy memberships.

This is no fad, it’s a bona-fide trend that you should know about, understand, and latch on to membership marketing secrets for your own business’ purposes.

You should first know what isn’t a secret—having a metered paywall at your website. Yes, thanks to many news-oriented publishers, metered paywalls have become commonplace and are a powerful way to showcase your premium content and convert website visitors into buyers.

But having a metered paywall is not a secret. Who doesn’t know about metered paywalls or already have one for their content?

And simply having a website where you publish content is not the answer to staying competitive these days … let alone blowing your competition out of the water.

For that, you need to attend the Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop! You’ll not only learn about the membership marketing secrets, but you’ll also discover all the online publishing myths that often distract or derail many publishers from keeping their eyes on the prize—growth and profits!

When you attend the Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop, you’ll be among the publishing industry’s elite—those who are ahead of the trends and will know exactly how to optimize your publishing efforts, based on the latest business intelligence. There will be plenty of time for networking, too, so you can get to know your fellow publishing professionals!

The 7 Membership Marketing Secrets for Magazine Publishers

So that you don’t have to wait until our event, here’s a list of 7 membership marketing secrets:

  1. Web Magazine
  2. Web Magazine Library
  3. Curated Special Collections
  4. Leveraging Existing Content Platforms
  5. Content Previews
  6. Email Marketing Frameworks
  7. Landing and Offer Page Frameworks

And of course, much of the “secret” is not just having a list, but fully understanding what’s behind these secrets and learning what to do about them, so that your own publishing system is in alignment with all these secrets.

When you come to the Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop, you’ll learn about all of these in detail—and you’ll learn how to plan, execute, measure, and optimize your very own magazine-driven membership marketing system.

I promise you this now, too—when you register and attend our event, you’ll get 3 bonus membership marketing secrets. And while my colleagues prefer me to hold these bonus secrets back until you register, I can tell you they involve growing your audience, growing customer engagement, and growing revenue.

You’re probably wondering how I can make the claim that you’ll double your revenue when you register for our Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop. Well, Mequoda has been around for more than 15 years—and we’ve helped many magazine publishers over that time, including Prime Publishing, Yankee Magazine and Hearst Magazines … and we’ve counted AAA Northeast and the Biblical Archaeology Society as clients (non-profit membership organizations that both have magazines!).

The Agenda for Discovering the 7 Membership Marketing Secrets for Publishers

You’ll leave this event with a clearer vision and plan for transforming your magazine publishing business. Here is the agenda for the Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop:

Wednesday, May 20

  • Creating a New, Successful Membership Product
  • 3 Ways to Build Your Audience Marketing Database
  • Offer- & Price-Testing Strategies for Maximizing Revenue
  • How to Organize and Outsource Your Business Processes

Thursday, May 21

  • Building an Integrated Membership Marketing System
  • 4 Key Metrics for Measuring Your Success
  • Modeling and Budgeting Your Five-Year Plan
  • 3 Bonus Membership Marketing Secrets Revealed

For a full description of all the sessions, click here to download your FREE Program Guide.

This entire membership marketing secrets event will be led by me, Kim Mateus, as Chief Strategy Officer at Mequoda Systems. In 2004, I started with Mequoda as employee #2, and have since overseen strategic planning for many of Mequoda’s publishing partners. Having guided the development of more than 20 subscription and membership marketing systems, my team and I monitor and maintain a robust best-practices database of marketing techniques and business processes that helps power all Mequoda partner marketing programs. My focus on client content strategies is a natural extension of my journalism education and background.

And here is a high-level summary of the entire Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop:

WHO: Besides senior executives like you from magazine publishing companies, the Mequoda Systems team who will join me at this membership marketing secrets event are veteran publishing professionals themselves—you’ll have plenty of time for networking with your fellow publishing executives and with the Mequoda Systems team:

  • Don Nicholas, Chief Executive Officer
  • Bill Dugan, Chief Copywriter
  • Nancy Horan, Chief Systems Officer
  • Eileen Shea, Content Marketing Director
  • Norann Oleson, Analytics Director

WHEN: May 20-21 (it’s NEVER too early to sign up!)

WHERE: Mirbeau Inn & Spa in Plymouth, Massachusetts

For inn room reservations at preferential rates for our attendees, click here or call 833-MIRBEAU (833-647-2328) for room reservations.

WHY: Because the magazine publishing world is fast-changing and keeping up with trends can be a full-time job—this membership marketing secrets event will help you focus on only the key initiatives that will help drive growth for your business.

For a full description of all the sessions, speakers, and the venue for this event, click here to download your FREE Program Guide.

I’d tell you to “mark your calendar” for this event, but if you only do that you might miss out—we only have a limited number of seats for this exclusive event, so sign up right now.

I hope to see you in historic Plymouth, Massachusetts, in May 2020!


Kim Mateus
Chief Strategy Officer, Mequoda Systems
Program Leader, Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop

P.S. If you already know that this event is for you, sign up right now while seats are still available (this is a small event—we really only have space for a few dozen people). Register now for the Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop!

P.P.S. Prefer not to wait until 2020 to benefit from all these membership marketing secrets? If you have a sizable team at your organization who should hear all about this, email me at and let’s chat about accelerating the process for you and bringing this membership marketing secrets workshop on-site at your company.

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