Rather than opaque and outdated pricing models, focus on audience personas and maintaining the trust of your readers
We have reached a point at which paid subscription growth, for many media companies, feels unattainable. I both vehemently disagree and, sadly, agree. There are more tools than ever for reaching larger audiences (the disagree part), yet, most of the time, they are not deployed to their full potential (the agree part).
“No one is seeing an increase in paid subscription revenue.” “Of course I lowered the circulation revenue budget; it was unrealistic when the budget was created and it’s proven to be unrealistic now.” “Our subscribers are dying off, and the ones behind them don’t want a print subscription.” “You should reward me for just maintaining a sellable circulation number.”
Sound familiar? From my experience, this is usually the perspective of the same circulation (or audience development) professionals that are sending out postcards and emails with a homogenized message to a diverse audience expecting (cynically) to replace canceled subscriptions with new ones. “We will be incredibly lucky if we can keep revenue even close to even to last year. No one is growing paid.”
Some will partially overcome shortfalls with “escalating subscription pricing,” which I discourage. Under this model, for example, the first subscription is purchased for $89.99, the next year it becomes $122.99, the year after that it becomes $140.99, and so on. I’ve been in meetings during which I’ve challenged this approach and was told that it was “common practice” and “this is the only way to keep any circulation revenue.”
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