Digital Publishing Reader Revenue
4 mins read

Top 10 reasons small publishers should consider paid subscriptions

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There has never been a better time for smaller publishers to consider adding a content or news subscription offer to their overall revenue strategy.

The digital subscription economy is growing as a consumer behavior trend, paid digital content subscriptions are rising specifically, consumers are willing to pay for more privacy or ad-free experiences.

Publishers who are not using digital subscriptions should start.

Subscription Economy Index Report

10 reasons small publishers should offer subscriptions:

  1. Paid Subscriptions Offer a Way to Monetize Adblockers that are not providing any revenue or value exchange to the site otherwise. Surveys have shown that most adblock users support publishers generating revenue, and a significant percentage of them are open to paid subscriptions. Paid content subscriptions offer a consent-based, mutually beneficial path for those who prefer an ad-free experience to still support their favorite site.
  2. Subscribers Are Worth More: The average revenue per visitor (ARPV) for a paid digital subscriber can reach an order of magnitude higher than ad-based ARPV. For example, the NYTimes paid subscription  revenue has been 7X the revenue of a visitor that only views ads without a news subscription. Every visitor does not need to be a subscriber for the economics to work, and a core set of subscribers can provide both an economic base and a truth set of known users to improve other marketing and content decisions.
  3. Loyalty and Scarcity: Niche content sites typically have stronger brand affinity and loyal readers, which can contribute to subscription conversions in a reader revenue funnel. There is a scarcity value in both economics and psychology that confirm “humans place a higher value on an object that is scarce”. A website with quality content on niche topics may be one of a few, or the only worthwhile site on a particular topic, and that value can be worth a premium to your most active readers. One of the top reasons content subscribers have given for their conversion is the uniqueness and quality of the information, which is not reserved only for larger pubs.
  4. Predictability: Subscription-based website revenue is recurring and more predictable than ad rates, which can vary by season. The base recurring reader revenue can be even more helpful for smaller companies to forecast and plan for growth.
  5. Renewal Effect: Subscription revenue benefits from a compounding effect as previous year’s content/news subscriptions start renewing alongside new annual subscriptions. Data from Mather Economics suggests that with content subscription revenue renewals, time is on the publisher’s side.
  6. Privacy Concerns Aren’t Limited to Large Sites. In studies of why people become content subscribers, one significant category were people that were concerned about ads and privacy, so they subscribed to sites they preferred. That preference for privacy isn’t limited to just visitors to the NYTimes, and a portion of visitors to a smaller site would be just as interested in an ad-free experience via subscription. Why not offer them the option? Users have a sense that paid content translates to better protection of personal data by publishers, and they don’t discard that mindset just because they are visiting a smaller publisher.
  7. The Subscription Economy is Growing: Consumers generally are opting for, and becoming very comfortable with, subscription models. Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, Food boxes, DollarShave club, and more. Studies have shown subscriptions have grown 435% in the past 9 years across industries. These behaviors and broad trends can translate to other content consumers value, whether it’s from a small or larger publisher. Take advantage of the macro shift to gain content subscribers now.
  8. Small Pubs are Technically Empowered: Now, more than ever, smaller companies with less (or even zero) tech resources can have access to a robust paywall and subscription management system, with platforms like Admiral. Intuitive tools and easy install means a small pub can be up and running within 24 hours with a subscription, donation, or email collection campaign.
  9. Consumers Appreciate Sites that Offer Resources & Services: A site doesn’t have to be large to offer killer helpful resources or service, i.e. file sharing, databases, technical resources, reviews, calculators, meme generators, image optimizers, and similar. They are primed to offer a subscription/donation model. Examples include Wikipedia, Merriam Webster, Encyclopaedia Britannica, and Neiman Lab.
  10. Supporting Content Creators is Trending and Easier  – Consumer behavior in regards to digital consumption is changing with the advent of contribution platforms such as Patreon, Flatr, Kick-starter, micropayments on Twitch and Tik-Tok, etc. More and more consumers are open to the idea of directly rewarding content creators and small publishers with money.
  • study of paid subscribers to Twitch streamer channels showed the #1 reason they subscribed was: “The desire to provide monetary support to the streamer.” Fans of specific content want to see the creator and the channel grow and thrive, and they want a sense of belonging to the community, of helping that growth along.”
  • Pubs can even run donation CTA’s targeting stories by a particular guest writer or contributor, for those that want to see their donations go directly to a specific creator. That may also help attract writing talent to your publication.
  • Donation campaign success has been growing for small or regional news sites, such as Gothamist, The AFRO, Scarsdale Inquirer, and Anchorage Daily News. Note: Admiral’s donation automation module has helped many clients run donation campaigns, such as the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Relationships matter. Relationships drive reader revenue growth and are the foundations to solving a myriad of challenges publishers face today.

Michael Yeon
VP Marketing, Admiral

By Admiral
Admiral helps digital publishers grow visitor relationships via adblock recovery, per-site subscriptions, multi-site subscriptions, email subscriptions, social subscriptions, privacy consent and more, powered by Admiral’s one-tag, one-vendor, one visitor experience Visitor Relationship Management (VRM) platform.