Launching a subscription program

5 Things To Do Before Launching a Subscription Program

Subscriptions represent a path toward financial sustainability for many publishing businesses. But launching a subscription program involves more than just putting up a paywall.

Launching a subscription program that generates real revenue requires a strategic business plan. You’ll need to take concrete steps to start your subscription program off on the right foot, and that means picking out the right model, preparing for a temporary drop in page views, and finding new ways to combat subscriber churn.

Before you embark on this new endeavor and announce to the world that you’re becoming a subscription publisher, do these five things to increase your chances of success.

1. Build out your premium content

People will only pay for premium products that they can’t access for free. Go through your website with a fine tooth comb to ensure the user experience is up to snuff. If you’ve been considering any website upgrades, make those changes before your subscription program launches. Anything you can do to make your website appear more professional will help get your subscription program off the ground.

2. Pick the right paywall

Hard, metered, dynamic, intelligent. There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to the types of paywalls that work for digital publishers. Picking the right type of paywall will depend on a number of factors that are unique to your publication, including where your audience is coming from, the demographics of your readership, and the types of content you produce.

Some analysts predict a shift in how publishers implement paywalls in the year 2020, with more publications running freemium-style and dynamic models. Under the dynamic model, readers are asked to pay different amounts depending on where they are at in the purchase cycle. For example, some publishers are putting paywalls in front of certain types of content and others are launching offshoot products accessible exclusively to paying subscribers.

The freemium and dynamic models are in stark contrast to metered paywalls, which only go up once visitors read a pre-determined number of “free” articles. Changes to popular browsers like Chrome and Safari are making it easier for readers to get around metered paywalls, leading many publishers to look for stronger alternatives.

3. Prepare for a drop in page views

If a substantial portion of your revenue comes from display advertising, then be prepared for that to change. Monthly page views tend to drop quickly when paywalls go up, and it can take time to recoup the cost through subscription revenue alone. While you wait for subscription rates to go up, consider running more sponsored content or generating revenue through other channels that you might otherwise consider to be outside the box.

4. Keep an eye on marketing costs

It’s not uncommon to go overboard with marketing when launching a subscription program. Advertising on social media and search engines like Google may be necessary to acquire new readers. Just make sure to track the costs of marketing and advertising initiatives closely to determine whether the return on investment (ROI) is high enough to justify whatever you’re spending.

In addition to tracking the number of new subscribers coming from each channel, keep tabs on churn. If a high percentage of subscribers coming from a certain channel are un-subscribing quickly, then you may need to re-allocate resources to find a better marketing mix.

5. Build a propensity-to-churn model

Once you’ve gotten someone to subscribe, you need to hold on for dear life. That means finding ways to keep subscribers coming back for more, either through added-value or by offering other types of incentives.

Savvy publishers should build propensity-to-churn models before launching their subscription programs. These models should identify readers who are likely to unsubscribe and deploy “catch-and-save” teams to prevent those readers from leaving. Anti-churn models use skills from the business world, like dynamic pricing. Certain technology solutions can also be used to decrease churn, like programs that detect when credit cards are about to expire.

To learn more about the steps involved in launching a subscription program, contact our development team here at Web Publisher PRO.