Membership is the new mantra for media brands. Subscriptions are clearly passe. But what makes a convincing membership proposition? And how do you set pricing?
The short (and possibly annoying) answer is that you need to research your audience, whether business or consumer, explore their professional or personal information needs and match those to products or services you are uniquely placed to offer.
But it probably helps to have an idea of what items you might want to pack in the membership hamper before you embark on your research programme. I have reviewed a dozen or so membership propositions and picked out the common themes. Roughly in order of popularity here they are:
Six elements of membership propositions
To elevate a membership package above a basic subscription (and justify a premium price tag) you need to go beyond access to standard articles online and a print magazine.
A members’ newsletter is nice to have but doesn’t really feel like privileged access. Many B2B media brands are adding in reports, case studies or in-depth practical tools and templates – saving their members valuable time.
Searchable archive access can be valued. TTG media has digitised its entire archive. Useful information can also be compiled into databases. Marketing Week includes a case study database, and the top tiers of Vogue Business membership include their proprietary Index.
Events are the main element that turns a subs package into a membership proposition, enabling your members to meet each other, your editorial team and sector experts. B2B publishers from The Drum, B2B marketing, Health Business International all bundle discounted or complimentary tickets to their premier conferences into memberships. Corporate packages include several passes.
Now that events have moved digital, many are offering access to digital live streams that charge for access (TTG Media) or are exclusive to members (Marketing Week).
Online training and e-learning was already popular before Covid and is even more widespread now. RCNi includes access to online professional development modules in its premium subscriptions. Business of Fashion has discovered its members (mostly early career fashion pros) value highly the e-learning part of their package. B2B marketing offers discounts for members taking up its in person and online courses.
B2B audiences are particularly interested in informal, small group opportunities to network and connect, so many B2B media brands, including The Drum and B2B marketing offer round tables, breakfast meetups and drinks events for their members. These have had to move online in the last few months, but they are still valued.
HBI365, the membership package for Health Business International, also offers five sector online communities, with mobile-first forums as well as online events.
Consumer news media also recognise the value of getting members together. Tortoise media members can attend ThinkIns to debate the issues of the day with journalists – now online while formerly in person.
Professional members may well want to use their membership to promote themselves or their organisation. 1854 Media have a membership proposition for professional photographers that bundles in unlimited entries to their six international photo competitions. The Drum Network offers agencies a similar benefit for corporate awards entries, plus a company profile page hosted on the Drum website to showcase their work.
- One to one services
Sometimes the personal touch makes all the difference. Premium members at A Word About Wind can have a couple of research calls with the team each year. And members of Women on Boards can request a 1:1 call with another member for tips before a board level interview.
Pricing membership propositions
For each market, it is possible to put together a unique bundle of content, events and services that will be valued by your audience. Corporate packages, offering access for teams of 10 or more, are priced annually, and often run into several thousands. Individual packages targeted at more price sensitive groups are frequently broken down into quarterly or monthly payments, with easy cancellation options. And several have a basic and a premium tier, which provide opportunities to trade members up to pricier packages later.
As you set out on your research journey, you can explore the value that your audience might place on different combinations of services, and the level of investment they are likely to make.
If you have experiences of developing membership packages, in either consumer or business markets, and have ideas or tips to share, please get in touch.
Or if you are at the early stages of the journey, you are welcome to contact me for an initial discussion on how to research the different options.
About the author
Carolyn Morgan has bought, sold, launched and grown specialist media businesses across print, digital and live events. A founder of the Specialist Media Show (sold in 2014) she now advises media businesses large and small on their digital strategy through her consultancy Speciall Media.