Reading Time: 5 minutes

How Digital publishers can generate revenues for their content with Subscription business

Remember running to the door for the morning newspaper first thing in the morning? Skimming through the pages to see what had happened in the world between yesterday and today? There was a time when smartphones were not as prominent. And consuming news digitally was an alien concept. But today, everyone you know is looking at their phones and giving you a new piece of information every day.

It’s no longer the norm to set aside dedicated time for the news before heading to work. Or waiting for your turn to get your hands on the newspaper. You can now know about all the world happenings anywhere, anytime. And why just news? Reading a book, reading new articles, going through pictures, everything has moved online. Take, for example, the Kindle. Amazon used this revolutionary idea to shift readers from physical books to Kindle editions. They provided unique features that were never possible in a print edition. Like long pressing a word to display its meaning instantly.

Also, for a small subscription fee, they provided unlimited access to a large number of books, that would otherwise cost a lot more to purchase individually. They created value for the user and more importantly, made them realize this value.

The same is the case with e-magazines. Yes, there used to be a time when you would subscribe to magazines and eagerly wait for them to arrive in your mail every month. That still happens today. The only difference? It comes in your e-mail.

Readers have increasingly been realizing the value of digital content. This is the reason companies like The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, New York Times are making a major portion of their revenue through online subscribers. Platforms like Medium are making money as well as sharing their income with writers through their subscription model. According to a 2019 report, The New York Times experienced a surge in their digital subscriptions by 25.5%, resulting in a total of 2.8 million subscribers.

How did publishers’ newspapers and magazines make money earlier? Through advertisements and user subscriptions for hard copies. Now, they make money in the exact same way, except that instead of hard copies, some users prefer soft copies.

But what’s the advantage for the publisher?

Analytics and Cross-Selling

With the user reading on their online portal, the publishers can track the sections that are most read by users. By analyzing the most popular and least popular content, they can make changes in the next edition accordingly. At the same time, they can perform targeted marketing for users based on the section they read the most and cross-sell advertisements and products that are most profitable for them.



Based on the reader’s interests, a digital publisher can offer to bundle in the form of digital archives, access on online learning modules, podcasts, and newsletters, that would otherwise be quite expensive if bought separately.

Customized Paywalls

Paywalls can be customized for different users based on how much time they spend on your website and how many pages they browse. Typically, in a freemium model, users can access a certain amount of content for free before they need to pay. This amount of free content can be personalized based on user profiling. At the same time, you could offer early-bird discounts to the more price-sensitive reader, which you can easily figure out using analytics.

Customer Retention

With constant monitoring and analytics of your readership, you are able to provide better customer service and more personalized content. This goes a long way in satisfying your reader, earning your customer loyalty, and user retention. This will prompt you to dedicate more resources towards your digital subscribers, earning you additional brownie points.


How Can You Generate Revenue With Subscriptions?

How do you get users to subscribe to your digital publication and pile on to that additional revenue?

Freemium Model

The Millennials and GenZiers are well educated. They are well-researched. They do not fall prey to scams easily. How then do you get them to subscribe to your content? By showing them what they are missing. If you ask a new user to straightaway buy your subscription plan, he or she might be wary. But if you show them your best content for free and make them realize the treasure trove that they do not have access to, they will be tempted to subscribe. And a good percentage of them actually will. You can thus use the freemium model and set up a paywall in place.

The Right Pricing Plans

If you’re dealing with price-sensitive users, you might lose out on them if you ask for large amounts upfront. In such cases, it’s better to break down the subscription fees into monthly, quarterly, and annual plans. Users can opt for smaller plans if they don’t want to commit too much money upfront. Or, they could see the value in subscribing for an annual plan as opposed to paying monthly for one year and subscribe right away.

Don’t Ignore Ad Revenues

With a growing base of subscribers, you will have more advertisers flocking to your platform. Based on the kind of content your users are consuming, you can leverage the opportunities from ad revenues if you can manage to target the right type of user with the right advertisement.

Advertisers are always where the users are. By getting more subscribers to your platform, you are indirectly generating commercial opportunities.

Having the Right Technology Platform

If your organization has deep pockets and no dearth of resources, you could have your own dedicated team of developers. Or, you could outsource the same and go for already existing platforms, that can be customized for you with minor tweaks. No matter what approach you take, keep in mind its long-term maintenance and scalability. You would like to get to a point where you have millions of subscribers and your platform must be equipped to handle the same.

In Conclusion

We’re not exactly saying that print media is dying. But it is declining, in comparison to digital media. Internet connectivity is seeing penetration in the remotest of areas. Areas, where it is not possible to hand, deliver physical copies of the content. Digital platforms certainly have leverage over the conventional ways of selling published content. And the sooner the publishers realize this, the better it will be for them. They will get a chance to adapt in time before they have to go down under.

The ease and convenience that digital publications have brought with them have been appreciated by users, who are not shying away from paying a premium for digital editions of what they would earlier consume offline. According to articlecube, 70% of digital readers would like to stick to the digital versions due to features lacking in a print edition.