Securing subscribers involves a strategic plan that begins with defining your publishing brand, then delivering the highest quality content to readers that are hungry for more. Allen Taylor, a journalist, freelance writer and editor, specializes in next-generation technology topics. In this guest article, he summarizes eight reasons how publishers can retain their readers as subscribers.
Before the Internet age, almost everyone you met had a magazine subscription. Everyone had their favorite magazines, and they could receive them in their mailbox every week or month. If they weren't a subscriber, they could pick up individual magazines at a newsstand for a reasonable price. Today, it's almost as if people expect their content to be free.
But do they?
What goes on in the mind of a reader isn't as much of a mystery as some hacks might want you to believe. Every reader performs a cost-to-benefit analysis of the content they read to see if they're truly receiving value for their dollar. If the content isn't valuable or improve their lives in some way, they'll move on to the next website. And you have just a few seconds to convince them to stick around. Is there a magic formula for getting people to subscribe to your online content?
I wouldn't call it a magic formula, but there are some tell-tale signs that your content isn't valuable enough for subscribers.
Why Readers Don't Subscribe
Subscription-based content isn't anything new. For as long as there have been publishers and readers, there have been people willing to pay for content. Whether it be magazines, a book of the month, newsletters, or periodical emails, people love to receive the content that matches their interests. Some of it they'll even pay for. Here are eight reasons why you're having a difficult time getting subscribers to your online content and the solution for each one (because most of them can be fixed).
- They're not sure about your brand – New readers haven't had time to fall in love with your brand. Your free content is your audition. It's a way to say to readers not familiar with your brand, “If you like my free content, just wait until you subscribe!” Some will and some won't, but the key to getting subscribers is to make your free content so valuable that readers would be willing to pay for it. Then, make your paid content even better.
- They believe it's overpriced – If people are willing to pay for content, it's the publisher's job to figure out how much they're willing to pay. That's true of any product, but the surest way to find out is to ask. If your free content doesn't convince readers to pay for your content at the price you are asking, try offering a discount and see if they'll subscribe at a lower price. A part of being a publisher is understanding the value that you provide to your readers. Set the right price and people will subscribe.
- They don't read it often enough – One reason people may not want to subscribe to your content is they don't read it often enough. If you charge $15 for a monthly subscription and some readers only read two or three articles per month, they likely won't see that as a value proposition they're willing to bank on. The key is to make them an offer they are willing to accept. Try offering your content on a piecemeal basis and see if people are willing to pay a few cents or a dollar for each article.
- Their content interests are narrower than your brand focus – News websites often provide content in several categories, but what if you have readers who are only interested in fashion or sports? What if they're only interested in the news, or financial reporting? Even niche publications can offer more varied content than some readers' interests within that niche. If that is the case, readers may not want to subscribe because they're not willing to pay the full price for a small piece of your publication. One solution is to offer a mini-subscription where readers can pay to access just one or two categories of content. The other option is to offer a pay-per-article solution. Either way, readers can gain access to the content they want at a price they're willing to pay. You could also provide a time pass to allow these readers a chance to evaluate your full content package; you never know, they may decide they do like it enough to subscribe.
- You've made it too hard to subscribe – Technology can be a wall or a bridge. You want yours to be a bridge. Don't make it too hard to subscribe. Only ask for the personal information you actually need, and don't make the process too lengthy. People are time- and security-conscious. Ease their concerns and they'll be more likely to subscribe.
- They prefer to get their news from a variety of sources – Admittedly, this is a difficult objection to overcome. There are readers, however, who are not loyal to any publishing brand. They prefer to read multiple sources to receive the news and content that is important to them. One way to entice these readers to subscribe is to prove your content is better than the competition's. Offer a free month and a money-back guarantee to any reader that isn't satisfied with your paid content. Another solution is to offer a time pass subscription. It can be a month long or a partial month, but the idea is to take away the reason to say “no.” If you do that, readers will be more likely to subscribe.
- Your free content isn't good enough – The surest way to lose potential subscribers is with mediocre or sloppy content. If you aren't getting any subscribers, it's possible that your free content just isn't good enough. See what you can do to improve your free content before you make subscription offers.
- They're not the subscribing kind – Let's face it, not everyone is a subscriber. Some people expect all their content to be free, or they simply don't want to pay for the privilege of receiving great content. You'll never overcome this objection, so your best bet is to focus on enticing the people who will subscribe, and deliver great content to that audience.
Quality Content Will Always Find Readers (And Subscribers)
Print newspapers and magazines have been seeing their subscription rates decline for years. But many readers are now subscribing to their online content. That's because quality content will always find an audience. Build quality into your brand and you'll find readers and subscribers flocking to your website to consume your content on a regular basis.
To recap, first, make sure your free content is so valuable readers would be willing to pay for that. Woo them into loving your brand, then offer them content on a per-article basis, a mini-subscription basis, a time pass basis, or a monthly subscription basis for readers who are sold on your brand. Offer your content at a price readers are willing to pay, and make the subscription process as seamless as possible. In short, under promise and over deliver.