Subscriptions growth strategies

Many publishers are seeing retail sales declining, and are increasing their focus on subscriptions.  The recent survey by wide area/inpublishing states that 47% of respondents are seeing decline in retail and 40% are seeing growth in subs.  So subscriptions are the focus of increasing attention by publishers. But what are the best strategies to grow subscriptions in the current climate, when consumers are perhaps reluctant to commit spend?  I’ve compiled some tips from recent conversations with a range of publishers that may provide some ideas:

1. Add value rather than discount

Most publishers are moving away from heavily discounted offers, and instead focussing on relevant gifts, often sourced from advertisers.  Responses are unpredictable and there is the continual pressure to find new gifts, but it establishes a higher price point for renewals.  Even b2b publications are increasingly using gifts, often aimed at the subscriber as an individual rather than as a business person, eg moleskine notebooks for Architects Journal.

2. Explore list swaps and build in-house lists

Many publishers are swapping lists with suppliers, other publishers, and even direct competitors, with good results.  Others are focussing on building in-house lists from web and print activity, spending time profiling them and making targeted offers.

3. Test flexible packages

Some publishers are having success with subs packages that have a “round” price point such as £20, and an “odd” number of copies.  There’s some move away from small regular DD amounts and back to less frequent payments.  The growth of online banking has perhaps made DD claims more visible and easier to cancel.

4. Encourage upsell and cross-sell – by phone and online

Providing a thorough brief to your call centre on the cross-sell and upsell offers available to callers is well worth while.  With the growing proportion of subs being ordered online – for some publishers this is as high as 50% – your web-site also needs to draw attention to related offers.  This need not be limited to print products; Good Housekeeping do a good business in aprons and pots and pans!

5. Experiment with digital editions

Many publishers have shied away from digital editions, considering them a poor substitute for print magazines, and fearing the complications of VAT.  However they are widely used for samplers.  Many specialist publishers are offering them for international subs or hard-to-reach categories eg Dive magazine offers them to overseas dive shops.  The consumer will eventually adopt digital editions as technology advances, so it is important to test the water, and especially important to establish a separate price, and not simply bundle with print subs.

I’d be keen to hear about your subscriptions successes, and your tips for growth strategies.

Carolyn Morgan‘s consultancy business, Penmaen Media, creates practical digital media and marketing strategies.  If you would like to discuss how you could grow your subscription base, please contact us for an initial conversation.


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