Get Free Email Updates | Have an Account?
  • Free email newsletter
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • RSS Feed

How Much Should You Invest in Your Membership Website?

Membership website publishers are rethinking both their infrastructure and business processes to survive and prosper in the new digital-first publishing environment

Few things fascinate membership website publishers more than the relationship between cost and revenue for the various operational centers inside their business. We have long known for instance, that editorial or product costs are typically 8 to 12% of revenue for a niche media business. The number can run higher for very small operations and lower for very large operations.

Further complicating the question over the past few years, is the merger of marketing and technology into a single cost center that some are now beginning to call Martech.



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.


The technology included here has nothing to do with running the enterprise, such as accounting software or phone systems. Marketing technology typically includes all of the hardware, software, marketing and technology services required to run the organization’s membership website, email, fulfillment and social media functions. These functions incorporate what we call your customer experience management system. As you may know, we build and operate exactly this type of fully integrated customer experience management system.

As such, we are often asked by other membership website publishers what should it cost to run a fully integrated marketing and technology system including both the employees and contractors that operate the system and generate all the marketing content needed to run it.

As a side note, a modern marketing technology system or customer experience management system requires a team whose skills include:

  • project management
  • content generation
  • analytics
  • software development
  • system management
  • graphic design
  • team management
  • and the ability to set and manage marketing strategy at a high level

The skillset is diverse and must be managed as part of an integrated team so that software functionality is aligned with the organization’s marketing programs and test initiatives.

In general, there is a trend that shows the larger the revenue, the smaller marketing and technology costs become as a percentage of that revenue. This of course leads to higher profit margins for larger organizations. If you’ve ever wondered why we look for organizations that are already generating at least $1 million in revenue as good partner candidates, we find that the cost of running a comprehensive marketing and technology system starts to become possible with $1 million in revenue.

In fact, most of our partner systems are associated with operating revenue that ranges from $2 million per year to $10 million per year, and the higher the revenue, the lower marketing and technology cost become as a percentage of that revenue.

Our partners spend anywhere from 20% to 50% on Martech. Mature businesses are only spending 20% because they’ve been at it for some time and have strong penetration in their market. Meanwhile, others are spending up to 50% because they’re younger companies and just starting to grow while reinvesting their profits as quickly as they can.

And reinvestment is key. A lot of publishers these days are doing their best to make sure their business doesn’t shrink, when what they should be doing is trying to help it grow. President of Hearst David Carey echoed this sentiment recently in an interview:

“The degree of difficulty of running a money-losing digital business is like zero. I’m reminded by one of the great scenes from “Toy Story.” You have the skeptical Woody and Buzz, and Buzz is gonna fly, and Woody says, “No Buzz, that’s not flying. That’s falling with style.” I think for some of these companies that have lost a huge amount of money by going back to their investors have been falling with style.”

Strategically, membership website publishers who wish to succeed must be willing to over-invest in marketing and technology to grow their business so that ultimately, marketing and technology costs become low enough as a percentage of operating revenue to drive strong operating margins.

This understanding is common among startup organizations that are well-funded. Legacy publishers find themselves in a position today where they need to behave as startups from an economic strategy perspective.

Marketing and technology systems represent a significant initial investment that will be repaid over time. While it is possible to take a phased approach to building out your marketing and technology systems and business processes, delaying or extending the process over too long a period actually has the impact of both increasing the required investment and delaying the payback.

Membership website publishers are not alone in being challenged by this set of economics. Most mature businesses avoid large investments that will take years to pay back. The Internet has disrupted our industry such that publishers have no choice but to make these kinds of investments in rethinking both their infrastructure and business processes to survive and prosper in the new digital first publishing environment.

The Internet is both a creator and destroyer in our industry. Mequoda exists to help you navigate the process and emerge with a publishing business that is more successful and profitable than anything in your history.

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.

Posted in Subscription Website Publishing

Tagged with , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *