Developing Successful Subscription Websites

Developing Successful Subscription Websites

Learn the 6 most profitable paid content business models in this 90-minute seminar hosted by Don Nicholas and two successful Subscription Website publishers

Now you can order the CD or watch it instantly on-demand!

Building a Subscription Website associated with a magazine, newsletter or book series always requires a great deal of forethought and evaluation, because the model does not fit every publisher.

If a publisher already operates a user-driven business where circulation is the primary source of revenue, then a Subscription Website makes a profitable addition.

Or rather, it should.

Subscription websites are especially popular for publishers with many years of back-content.

  • Print publishers put archives online and sell access for a fee.
  • Software developers have programs online that can be accessed for a fee.
  • Research teams offer information for a fee.

The list continues. What is constant throughout all Subscription Websites is that they charge users for access to exclusive content.

Subscription Websites are relatively expensive to build compared to other website models. If they are designed with user friendly, topic-based navigation and have a good content management system, they can become an excellent new source of revenue and profit.

Are you currently running a Subscription Website? Are you thinking about starting a Subscription Website?

In our 90-minute Developing Successful Subscription Websites seminar,  you’ll be introduced to several profitable subscription website publishers who will share their successes and failures in developing their own sites.


We’ll start out the webinar by showing you the six differentiations between every Subscription Website:

  • Minimum Information Unit: What is the ultimate product that is being sold through your subscription? For example, the minimum information unit for Consumer Reports is a review. For the Motley Fool, it’s a monthly issue of their newsletter.
  • Product Breadth: How much content are you offering your subscribers? Should you simply offer them access to a digital archive of your back-issues, or would your users prefer a database of articles? There’s no general right answer, it depends on your audience.
  • Update Frequency: How often is your Subscription Website updated? This depends on how evergreen your content is, and whether your audience requires daily, weekly, or monthly updates.
  • User Interactivity: What tools are you giving your subscribers to interact with you? Would you get a significant ROI by adding a social networking component into your Subscription Website for users to interact with each other?
  • Content Organization: Do you know what your users are looking for when they sign into your Subscription Website? Should you organize content by Product? Issue? Topic? Date?


Six different types of Subscription Websites

There is no single model for a Subscription Website, that’s why we’ve invited two successful newsletter website publishers  to join us on this webinar and deliver their own case studies: Bill Dugan of and Lisa Witzler of the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School.

Periodical Website:  The Minimum Information Unit is a news post and the website content is organized by date and keyword topic (also called category). Adding photos, audio, video or other documents, may enrich the post.  These sites are also called news sites, online newspapers, online magazines, online newsletters, online journals and blogs. The Wall Street Journal Online, Daily Word and The Economist are benchmark sites for the Subscription Periodical Website Archetype.  All three require registration and payment for full access.

Reference Websites:  The Minimum Information Unit may be an article, book, report, document, lesson or episode.  While simple sites may rely solely on HTML and PDF files, many more robust sites also incorporate still photos, audio and video in the MIU. For some sites, an audio or video lesson or episode may be the primary MIU.  Consumer Reports, and Mequoda Pro are all benchmark sites for the Subscription Reference Website Archetype. All three require registration and payment for full access.

Newsletter Websites:  The Minimum Information Unit is a single issue of a newsletter usually stored as a PDF or some other easily downloadable format.  The Motley Fool Stock Advisor, Golf Odyssey, and First Class Flyer are benchmark site for the Subscription Newsletter Website Archetype. All three require registration and payment for full access.

Magazine Websites: The Minimum Information Unit is a single magazine issue, which may be stored as a PDF or in a CDF (Closed Document Format) such Texterity Cover Leaf.  LEDs Magazine and Make: Magazine are benchmark sites for the Subscription Magazine Website Archetype.  While both require registration for full access, LEDs Magazine (PDF edition) is free to qualified subscribers.

Application Websites: The Minimum Information Unit is a software application that often requires access to information in a proprietary database.  Morningstar, Hoovers and the BLR Job Description Manager are benchmark sites for the Subscription Application Website Archetype. All three require registration and payment for full access.

Membership Websites: The Minimum Information Unit is a person or member and all the information that member shares via their member profile, forum posts, file uploads, links and other data.  This archetype is also called a Social Network, Association Website and Member Website.  The Ladders, and SSUG are benchmark sites for the Membership Website Archetype. All three require registration for and payment full access.


Master the Subscription Website’s simple yet complex pay-for-access model

The Subscription Website’s pay-for-access model is simple. Subscriptions are usually sold on a time interval—for a day, a month or a year—and enable access to premium content. Annual memberships will offer the lowest fee-per-day access and one-day memberships will offer the highest. Sometimes archived content is also sold ala carte at a premium price.

When non-members arrive at a Subscription Website, they should be presented with conversion architecture designed to encourage becoming a registered, paying user. This may include sample content combined with an offer to join and a message that premium content is only available to registered users.

Subscribers arriving on the website should immediately be presented with architecture designed to help them quickly find the information they want. That is why some visitors (one to five percent depending on price and value) will choose to pay for the membership.

Watch Developing Successful Subscription Websites seminar on CD or on-demand.

Watch this 90-minute information-packed seminar with several brilliant case studies delivered by the publishers themselves.

You can opt to order the CD, or watch it on-demand right now with our Mequoda Pro pass. When you order the Pro Pass, you get access to all of our previous webinars on demand, as well as all upcoming live webinars (two per month).


I look forward to sharing more about Subscription Websites with you,


Don Nicholas
Executive Director
Mequoda Group, LLC

Order Now or Watch On Demand:

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Don Nicholas

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Executive Director
Mequoda Group

Lisa Witzler

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Program & Web Coordinator
Program on Negotiation
Harvard Law School

Bill Dugan

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Vice President / General Manager
fuelNet / Pohly Company


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