Subscription bundles increase conversion rates for publishers

Subscription bundles

Sometimes a simple subscription isn’t enough. In the battle to attract and retain more paying readers, publishers are creating subscription bundles with a range of add-ons. From plus-one print subscriptions to apps, books and targeted discounts, the key is adding value for consumers drawn in by the content but staying for the perks.

  • The Washington Post is reporting on Outside CEO’s Robin Thurston’s bid to revive the magazine brand that he bought in February this year. The fitness-tech entrepreneur turned magazine publisher is banking on a $99 annual membership that bundles a print subscription to Outside magazine with a range of added extras.
  • The Outside+ membership package brings together a portfolio of associated active lifestyle titles. Members can select an additional print title from a list including Backpacker, Climbing and Yoga Journal. They also get open access to another 36 titles online plus exclusive video content, the Gaia GPS app, two books and event and gear discounts.
  • “I felt like there was an opportunity to bring it all together under a single umbrella and really unify the experience for the consumer,” Thurston told the Washington Post. “When you combine the services like Gaia GPS, and the discounts to events, and you add in video-on-demand courses and all of the premium content, I felt like this was an offering for consumers that truly could be a foundation for their active lifestyle world.”
Content + Perks
  • In his Media Operator newsletter, Jacob Donnelly says Thurston has a point: “I like to think about this as sort of coming for the content, but staying for the perks. The foundation of this is obviously the core content that Outside offers. But then, in addition to that, subscribers get access to additional things that an active adventurer might find interesting.
  • He also highlights similarities between Outside+ and what TechCrunch is doing with its Extra Crunch membership in the technology startup sector. For a similar price (about $90 a year) Extra Crunch members get exclusive research and reporting, trend analysis and expert advice on fundraising and pitching. Members signing on for two years also get discounts on software and service, from AWS to Zoom.
  • Donnelly says selling a single subscription bundle allows publishing teams to focus on one product. It also increases touchpoints, introducing customers to more of what the publisher has to offer. “The content may be the core offering,” he says, “but it may be the secondary features that push the conversion over the finish line.”
Conversion Caution

There is a great deal of interest and support for the approach Outside and other publishers are taking with subscription bundles. But commentators are urging caution against overly ambitious conversion expectations.

Thurston’s three-year objective is to reverse Outside’s revenue mix – from 70% percent ads to 70% subscriptions in just three years. He said converting 10% of free visitors to his website would achieve this goal.

However, standard consumer content conversion rates are running way below 10%. Research done by paywall company Piano puts the average conversion rates across its network of sites at just 0.20%. Against that background, former Digiday editor-in-chief Brian Morrisey called the 10% target ‘insanely difficult’.

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