Free Archives

How to Use Free Archives to Attract More Subscribers

Content libraries. Special collections. Past issue archives. They go by many names. Magazine publishers are finding that when they open up their online archives and make them available for free, they actually increase their subscription rates.

How’s that possible?

Before we get into how online magazine publishers are boosting subscription rates by launching free archives, let’s talk a little more about the role that archives play in the magazine world.

Whether your magazine publishes exclusively on the web or both print and web, you probably have a huge catalog of content at your disposal. In most cases, the most valuable point in the lifecycle of an article is the day or week it’s published. That’s when readers are going to see the article for the first time, and it’s when they’re most likely to share the article with their friends via social media or email. If the article is tied to a news event—like the coronavirus pandemic or a sports event—then it’s also when the article is most relevant to readers.

The most popular subscription strategy among digital publishers right now is to make new content free, and to lock up older content behind a hard paywall. The thinking behind this strategy is that new content will bring readers in, and keeping older content behind a paywall will serve as an incentive to get those readers to subscribe. This strategy has worked well for many publishers. But there are some obvious flaws, as well.

For starters, many readers are happy being able to read the newest content for free, even if that means they can’t access older articles. Depending on how a publisher’s special collection or issue archive is designed, readers might not even know what they’re missing. It turns out, the very opposite strategy might be the best approach to capitalizing on an archive and boosting magazine subscription rates.

When publishers create free archives, they increase page views and open up the door to more display advertising revenue. Free archives are often filled with evergreen content that ranks well in search engines. With the right subscription marketing strategy in place, publishers can capitalize on the traffic their free archives are generating and capture new subscribers through older content.

Monetization Opportunities

If you were to launch a free archive, you would need to look at your existing strategy and any revenue goals you’ve set out. Look at these monetization opportunities and carefully weigh how they might impact your goals for building a sustainable publishing business.

Opportunity #1: Generate More Web Traffic
Search engines like Google have a hard time crawling pages when they are blocked by paywalls. As a result, many archived articles aren’t indexed. So if a person searches for “best healthcare chatbots” and you’ve written an article specifically titled, “Best Healthcare Chatbots,” your article still might not show up in the search results if the webpage hasn’t been indexed. Free archives increase the likelihood of your articles being indexed and found online, and that increases the page views your website will receive. Regardless of whether you run display advertising or sponsored content, having more page views is always a positive thing.

Opportunity #2: Cultivating Industry Authority
Free archives don’t cost a lot to create, but the benefits of having this feature on your website are significant. When readers can see just how much quality content your magazine has put out, and the length of time your publication has been in business, that boosts your subject matter authority. When someone sees you as the subject matter expert, they’re more likely to click over to your website to read articles on related topics. There is no downside to building your authority as a trusted leader in your particular niche.

Opportunity #3: Turn Readers Into Subscribers
With the right tools in place, publishers can capitalize on the traffic their free archives generate and turn one-off readers into paying subscribers. Pop-ups and email capture forms are some of the most popular strategies here. It’s a good idea to ask visitors for their email address in exchange for access to your free archives. With that information, you can setup remarketing efforts that encourage those readers to subscribe or sign-up for your newsletters and other add-on products.

At Web Publisher PRO, we guide publishers through the process of setting up and monetizing their business websites. If you have more questions about implementing free archives at your publication, reach out and schedule a consultation today.