Should You Be Testing New Subscription Models?

Because digital subscriptions are flexible and can be quickly modified, there are always opportunities to test and innovate with different access models.

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For print-only subscriptions, the relationship between payment and access has always been straightforward: the customer provides payment (in the form of money or information), and your content gets delivered to them. In the digital world, the introduction of flexible pricing and various delivery methods can make balancing that relationship more complex. One could be discouraged from innovating at a time when the industry is rapidly evolving, and instead, settle for inflexible, legacy business models.

But it doesn’t need to be complicated. On the contrary, the flexibility of digital subscriptions lends itself to rapid experimentation. Without investing a lot of resources, you can test new payment/access relationships, analyze and quantify the results, then iterate the process until you achieve your goals.

As you become accustomed to this new paradigm, you can make discretionary changes based on opportunity, as opposed to changes made out of necessity — such as what we saw with the COVID-19 pandemic, which compelled many publishers to open access to their archives on a temporary basis.

Common Examples

Let’s take a look at four of the more popular access models used by Turnstyle publishers: free trial, free preview, promotional, and unique access.

A free trial is providing access to content for a trial period and no (monetary) cost. This is a great way to generate interest and get subscribers into the sales funnel. By asking for nothing more than an email address you can give them access to a single issue, or even multiple issues, and utilize an email drip campaign to communicate with them during the course of their trial.

A free preview is different than a free trial in that it only gives the reader access to a limited set of articles within an issue. Many publishers offer all non-subscribers a preview, or “look inside” version of all of their digital issues to capture readers who may have discovered the content organically. The reader will be allowed to read one or more articles before being prompted to register or subscribe. The number of preview articles is defined by the publisher and can be changed quickly and easily on Turnstyle.

Unique access offers give subscribers more than just access to the digital edition. For example, a publisher sets up a community slack channel where readers can discuss topics with the writers or editors. This can add a lot of value and create the exclusivity that readers desire.

Promotional codes are great for moving subscribers up the value chain by offering a discount upfront for a term commitment. But you can also use that promotional code to create audience segments to track renewals, generate new offers, and keep the audience engaged with your publication.

Some Final Thoughts

It’s important to have an understanding of how your chosen access model converges with audience capture methods (such as landing pages), marketing automation, and campaign reporting. When all of these things are working well together, it makes it easier to track, test, and iterate until you find what works best. Some other tips to keep in mind would be:

  • Always have clearly defined goals, then measure, analyze, and then iterate accordingly.
  • Formalize the onboarding process with welcome emails, and nurture the relationship with scheduled emails.
  • For those with free trials, build a sense of urgency before the expiration date by sprinkling in another offer at the last second.

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Unlock your content's potential. Experience the impact of a world-class publishing platform.

Get Started with Turnstyle

Unlock your content's potential. Experience the impact of a world-class publishing platform.