Top tips for online subscriptions

Many niche print publishers are looking at how to migrate their content online – profitably.  With so much content available for free, how can you persuade your readers to pay?   These were the issues tackled in a recent webinar with US subs experts Subscriptions Site Insider.  Based on the real-life experiences of six US publishers, here are five practical tips:

1.  Always collect an email adddress

Even your “free” content should require registration.  This doesn’t have to be a hard barrier.  There were many examples of publishers operating a metered system, so if a user viewed 3 pages, an overlay popped up with an email sign-up form.  Once you have an email address, you can market full price subscriptions; without it your visitor is worth very little.

2.  Use your archive

Print publishers have a great advantage with their archive content.  Repackaging this as ebooks or even charging for archive access is a great way to generate extra revenue.  An ebook with a compilation of past content can also be used as a subscription incentive.

3. Don’t bundle your digital content for free

It’s tempting to allow print subscribers to have digital access to your content for free, but this creates a dangerous precedent.  What happens in a few years when they  decide they don’t want print and believe the digital content has no value?  Far better to ask for a modest fee to upgrade a print-only sub to a print plus digital.

4.  Keep your paywall simple

Don’t confuse your readers with a complex system of what is free and what is paid-for. Ideally create whole sections or tabs that are behind the paywall and identify them as such.

5.  Focus on email marketing

While social media is great for awareness building, and these days is almost a prerequisite for any publisher, it’s not proven to deliver paid subscriptions.  Boring old email marketing is just much better at converting people on your free registered list to paying subscribers.

These are just some of the clever, real-world tips included in the webinar.  It draws on the experiences of niche publishers in businesses like Consumer Reports, Dow Jones Local Media, Education Week, Cabot Heritage, Foreign Affairs and RFID Journal.  As well as sharing insider tips from all these niche publishers, there’s a great Q&A session with Minal Bopaiah, Editor of Subscription Site Insider.

You can see a recording of this webinar on the Specialist Media Show website.  To view it you’ll first need to sign up as a free member here.  Then you can access the webinar recording here.

About the author:  Carolyn Morgan works with niche publishers to help them create a practical digital strategy.  She also runs the Specialist Media Network on LinkedIn where publishers can swap ideas and network, and the annual Specialist Media Show.

If you’d like to discuss how we can help you take your niche publishing business into digital media, please get in touch for a no-obligation discussion.