10 ways to grow digital subscription revenue in the publishing industry

Reading time: 5 min
digital-subscription-revenue-publishers

Today, the publishing industry is getting more and more digitized. Even traditional magazines and newspapers are now available and have the highest readership online. This triggers publishers to look for possible ways to grow digital subscriptions and revenue. And that’s what we’re going to talk about today.

When you take a look at the global publishing industry, you see it’s mostly digitized. Take The New York Times as an example. In 2020, this newspaper lost 7.4% of its print subscribers. In the same year, their digital edition got 1.66 million new subscribers.

Today, publishers need to attract a digital audience and grow their revenues online. Although it’s not yet time to prophesy the end of the printed press, it is beyond doubt that digital content is the future for the whole industry. No matter if we talk about a newspaper in America or a magazine for modelers in Germany.

The reason is apparent – digital content is easier to get (all you have to do is open your smartphone, and you don’t have to wait in line at a newspaper stand), quicker and more convenient to read, and in many instances, cheaper as well.

This begs the question – what can publishers do to attract more readers and grow their digital subscription revenue? Let’s have a look at possible solutions.

How to grow digital subscription revenue

Standard market principles apply in this industry just like anywhere else. If you want to have more online subscribers, you have to approach them with an attractive offer that comprises a thought-out pricing strategy and high-quality texts. But let’s be more specific.

FLEXIBLE PRICING PLANS

That’s where it all starts. You have to offer at least two different plans – a cheaper one and a more expensive one for more demanding readers. The most affordable option should allow users to read the majority of texts that you publish. When it comes to the higher plan, you can create a separate section with texts just for the readers that purchased it. But the lowest plan should be, above all, affordable. Take a look at how a popular British newspaper, The Times, does that:

the-times-pricing-plans

Image source: The Times

The cheapest plan is available just for 15 pounds per month (plus, you get a discounted three-month period for just 1 pound).

FREE TRIALS/FREEMIUM

Secondly, it’s usually beneficial to offer people to try your magazine/newspaper for free. Free trials are very popular in the marketing and IT world. Usually, such a free period is available for 14 or 30 days, enough for each reader to make an informed decision. And here’s the second option: You can opt for a freemium model – you offer an always-available-for-free version of your magazine and a more extensive, richer version only for paying subscribers. Both these models have their pros and cons, but both can be used to show potential subscribers what they will be paying for. If the quality of your texts is high enough, many will decide to buy full access.

That’s what The Guardian does:

the-guardian-pricing-plan

Image source: The Guardian

EASY CANCELLATION

Make sure people know that they can cancel the subscription or suspend it at any given time. Long-term commitment is not something people appreciate. Most likely, the majority of your readers will never choose that option, but people want to know that they can resign anytime they want. This feeling of freedom can be a decisive factor: “I’ll give it a shot; after all, I can quit the subscription if I don’t like it!”

GROUP SUBSCRIPTIONS

Here’s yet another interesting idea – provide users with the possibility to purchase group subscriptions for multiple readers. Companies constitute a perfect example. Large enterprises can be vitally interested in purchasing one group plan for all their employees. Similarly, you can offer such a plan for foundations and other NGOs, schools, institutions, unions, and associations. That’s what Financial Times does:

financial-times pricing

Image source: FT

OPEN YOURSELF TO INTERNATIONAL READERS

In the introduction to this article, we mentioned The New York Times. The same source indicates that 10% of Canadians and 6% of Australians regularly visit this newspaper’s website. Don’t close your magazine to the international target audience. Analyze the traffic on your website (use Google Analytics) and see if there are any foreign groups of readers. If there are, perhaps it’s a good idea to address them somehow, maybe create a separate section on your website just for them? That’s what NYT did. When you enter their main website, you see that there are several editions to view and read:

  • International
  • Canadian
  • Spanish
  • Chinese

the-new-york-times-international-editions

PERSONALIZED CONTENT

Today, personalization drives everything companies do online. This effective technique can be used in the publishing industry, too! All you need is a personalization algorithm that analyzes the behaviors of your readers (articles viewed, sections visited, time spent on a given piece, etc.) and uses that data to provide them with personalized suggestions of other texts and articles that they may find interesting. There are many companies providing such algorithms/engines. A technology called machine learning fuels the majority of them. It’s an AI-related technology that allows these engines to improve their suggestions as they get more data about readers to process.

You can even go one step further and think of interactive content (e.g., clickable maps, interactive infographics and charts, widgets and calculators, and even quizzes and crosswords). According to the INC. magazine, such content yields a 70% conversion rate.

WORK WITH RENOWNED EXPERTS

Big names always attract attention. Of course, it doesn’t have to be Barack Obama or Elon Musk. There are many experts that are recognized and appreciated mainly in a specific sector. Look for people that are considered experts in your niche and invite them to write for your magazine. Even an occasional guest post can do a lot of good. And it’s a clear win-win situation because you get sterling, unique content, and your expert gets publicity and visibility.

ANALYZE AND CREATE CONTENT THAT DRIVES SUBSCRIPTIONS

Let’s be honest – not every article you publish is a groundbreaker, right? But some of them are, and these are usually texts that drive more subscriptions. Again, you can use an analytics tool to see which articles on your website get the most attention and encourage people to subscribe. With this knowledge, you can create more effective texts and, this way, get more and more paying subscribers.

INCENTIVES

Tell your free readers what they will get once they decide on a paid subscription. There can be a lot of diverse incentives:

  • Ads-free website
  • Premium texts and articles
  • Access to more sections of your website
  • Additional features and services

It all depends on your niche and your creativity. The point is to show readers that opting for a paid subscription is simply profitable.

STAY IN TOUCH WITH YOUR READERS (AKA PUSH NOTIFICATIONS)

The rule of thumb is that great customer service is better than great marketing. Show your subscribers that you value them and are thankful for their trust. You can show your appreciation by staying in touch with them. You can use newsletters or push notifications for that purpose. Push notifications are especially useful because they are quick, convenient, and work on both mobile and desktop devices.

At PushPushGo, we offer highly-efficient push notifications for the publishing industry. For example, take a look at how such notifications can benefit from the other technique mentioned in this article – personalized suggestions:

web-push-for-publisher

Of course, that’s not the only way to use push notifications. Take a look at this section on our website with various use cases in this industry. If you’d like to find out how push notifications can be used to drive more subscriptions to your magazine/newspaper – feel free to get in touch with us. We will gladly help you create a tailor-made strategy that will enable you to get and retain regular, paying readers.


Aleksandra Kozioł

Aleksandra Kozioł

Copywriter @PushPushGo

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