Subscription Models: Decoded

Subscription Models: Decoded
Content behind paywalls

We live in a fast-changing world where the latest innovations and new technologies hit the market every day. In this era of technology, consumers are almost always spoilt for choices. Whether it is choosing fashion or a basic meal, more time is spent on decision making than the actual consumption.

Let us look at the curious case of content creators. After having doled out enough and more time and effort in creating content, they are forever caught in a struggle: soliciting new customers and retaining existing customers. In this article, we try to explore some of the common subscription models to help ensure that you are making content available for consumption through the right model.

One of the most common and widely used models is the Subscription-based model. This is an umbrella term for models in which customers have to make a recurrent payment over a fixed duration of time for a product they are using. Studies show that, over the past five years, the subscription market has grown by more than 100 per cent a year. The largest such retailers generated more than $2.6 billion in sales in 2016, up from a mere $57.0 million in 2011. Facebook began testing subscription sales within Instant Articles and reported in June 2018 that the beta program resulted in a 17% increase in signups.

Facebook has been testing subscriptions in Instant Articles with over 40 publishers worldwide over the past 18 months
Facebook has been testing subscriptions in Instant Articles with over 40 publishers worldwide over the past 18 months

Inarguably, one of the most successfully implemented subscription model is the Family Sharing Model. In this model, a single subscription can cater to the needs of up to five individuals. Most subscription plans offer the choice of a single plan or family plan, but opting for family plan generally offers a nominal discount.

A notable example of this type is the Premium plan offered by Netflix. Paying a slightly higher price permits real-time usage by 4 members. A recent study shows that of the total increase in the total number of members in the US (from 44,738 in 2015 to 54,750), more than half have opted for the Premium plan. However, the inherent differences in individual preferences make it a not-so-commonly preferred plan. Another pressing concern here is that the publishers cannot control the number of devices, as users tend to share credentials within their circle.

Inherent differences in personal choices, however, make this model a not-so-preferred model. In addition to this, some studies show that customers tend to shy away from subscription models for the simple fear of a long-term commitment. A very good model that could tackle this problem is the Pay per Article model, aka Micropayments.

In this model, the customer pays for only what he/she wants to consume. For example, while browsing through some website, a customer may chance upon some content that piques their interest and would like to continue reading. They can do so only by paying a nominal amount. Although there seems to be no novelty in this model, a couple of years ago, this was not a preferred model. Google tried and failed to implement a micropayment system for publishers called One Pass in 2011, which was shut down not long after in 2012, due to a lack of publisher buy-in.

Almost a decade later, the preference of readers seems to have changed a great deal. The mass shift to subscriptions by publishers is proving that consumers value written content and are willing to pay for it.

A very interesting strategy that ensures a regular subscription, without much hassle to both the parties involved and at the same time takes into account the evolving market trends is the Metered Paywall model. In this model, reader can access an 'x' number of stories until they hit a paywall.

The New York Times, The Atlantic and Bloomberg, along with many other well-known digital publishers have implemented a metered paywall. In its recent quarterly earnings report, The Times announced that it had reached a whopping number of 29 million digital-only subscribers, and subscriptions are now a $1 billion business for the company. Another inquisitive case of this model is the Italian newspaper La Verità, In August 2018, their returning visitors increased by 74% and new visitors increased by 115%! La Verità is averaging 14 pages per visitor, far above the industry standard.

If you think a metered paywall best suits your publishing requirements, you could request a demo to optimize this demand here.

While metered paywall and subscription models are the most largely used models, there are other models which target to increase customers by providing incentives like gift coupons, referral bonus etc. Referral marketing is one of the most powerful ways to acquire and increase customer base. Content strategists argue that promoting one’s content through referral, gift coupons, discounts etc, although adds weight on the expenses in the nascent stages, yet proves to be one of the most profitable ways to promote one’s work overtime.

It is challenging to conclude what subscription model is the best or most preferred. Whichever the model, It is imperative to take into account that in an evolving market of customer preferences it would be advisable to change one’s model periodically to suit the dynamic needs of the market. You could try the various features Accesstype offers to experiment a subscription model that suits your business needs.

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