Digital Publishing Trends Multiplatform Publishing Strategy

Subscription Publishers Evolving Products and Offerings

Subscription publishers New York Times and others make changes to their subscription products; “Trump bump” subscriptions leveling out for publishers

Subscription publishers will make changes to products or evolve their subscription offerings as ways to determine the most effective ways to meet audience members where they are shopping.

Our first story today looks at Mashable and how the publisher has been promoting subscriptions through its e-commerce offerings. Digiday reports, “Two weeks ago, Mashable published its first e-commerce post. Instead of promoting a gadget or clothing, this post offered readers a subscription to Disconnect, a VPN and ad-tracking blocker.”

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Mashable, along with Gizmodo Media Group, Ziff Davis and Purch, have begun publishing e-commerce posts aimed at getting readers to subscribe to services rather than purchase physical goods.”

There’s no surprise that subscription publishers are focusing more attention on promoting subscriptions. “That’s because subscriptions offer higher payouts, and they allow publishers to avoid being overly reliant on Amazon, the main retail partner that publishers pursuing affiliate commerce revenues use. Publishers can also use what they know about readers’ interests to pitch subscription startups that need to acquire new customers.”

Our next story is on the subscription database change coming from The New York Times. Bloomberg Technology reports, “The New York Times is turning its cooking website and app into a subscription service, betting readers will pay for the content despite free recipes being widely available online.”

Starting Wednesday, NYT Cooking will charge $5 every four weeks, or $65 a year, for access to more than 18,000 recipes from staffers like Melissa Clark and Sam Sifton. The service will rely on a metered model, meaning readers can get some content for free on the web, but everything on a dedicated iPhone app will be reserved for subscribers. The Times plans to offer an annual subscription at a discounted price at a later date.”

It’s clear that there’s confidence in this subscription service being of interest to readers. “Created in 2014, NYT Cooking has amassed about 10 million monthly readers. Times executives say they’re confident many will pay because the recipes are based on in-depth reporting that can’t be found in a Google search. Sifton, for example, might interview the best Tex-Mex chefs in Texas for an enchilada recipe, according to Amanda Rottier, the product director for NYT Cooking.”

Our last story talks about the leveling off of the “Trump bump” that some subscription publishers experienced shortly after the November election. Digiday reports, “Trump’s unexpected victory (and media bashing) has been a boon for subscription-driven publications that have seen record sign-ups in the months after the U.S. election. Case in point is politics and culture site Slate, which saw a 65 percent increase in its $35-a-year premium membership sign-ups to 30,000 within three months of the election.”

It’s a similar situation elsewhere. Vanity Fair sold 107,000 subscriptions in a flash sale within a month after Donald Trump insulted it and forecast its doom in December. Trump has turned his attacks to The Washington Post, CNN and others, and Vanity Fair’s sub sales have settled back to normal levels. ProPublica saw donations soar to 10 times the usual rate in the days after the election, but growth has softened, president Richard Tofel said. The New Yorker had its biggest subscription month in January, when it sold 100,000 subscriptions, but there, too, the growth has leveled off.”

Subscription publishers have a great opportunity to generate consistent revenue with a great product. Do you need help with your subscription website? If so, set up a time for us to chat. We have helped plan, launch, and optimize hundreds of major subscription websites and we can do the same for you.

By Kim Mateus

Chief Strategy Officer

Kim Mateus is Chief Strategy Officer for Mequoda Systems and the Mequoda Systems Content Network where she oversees strategic planning for the organization's 200 plus premium subscription products. Over the past decade, she has guided the development of more than 20 subscription marketing systems including I Like Crochet Network, New England Network and Your AAA Network. She and her team maintain an exhaustive best practices database of subscription marketing techniques and business processes that she uses to advise her clients and optimize the more than 60 websites that make up the Mequoda Systems Content Network. Kim is a frequent speaker at industry events and serves on the board of the Specialized information Publishers Association.

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