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How To Generate Subscription Revenue in 4 Steps (Reader Revenue Starter Kit)

Updated: Mar 10

Introducing a reader revenue model isn’t a cosmetic procedure. To make it work, you’ve got to go deep and initiate a change at the cellular level.

In other words, simply slapping a paywall onto your home page isn’t enough. You need a subscription strategy, a cultural change, and a dynamic paywall with the features to support your evolving revenue mix.

Step 1: Change your mindset and pretend you’re starting a new business

Adopt the air of an “intrapreneur” and proceed as if you’re starting a new subscription-based business.

What’s the first step when starting a new business?

You know where we’re going with this: Writing a business plan.

A business plan is an excellent way to revisit familiar questions (e.g. customers, marketing, competition) but from a reader revenue perspective.

When you view these standard topics through a new lens, you come up with innovative approaches.

Recall how publishers shifted from prioritizing page views to prioritizing time spent. Why did this happen? Because instead of only asking, “How can we maximize ad revenue?”, people started asking, “How can we maximize engagement?”

Imagine the insights you’ll generate from viewing every area of your paper from a reader revenue perspective.

Step 2: Identify your unique value proposition as a publication

You’ll need to dig deep on this one. In fact, it may help to consult the public, readers, or non-editorial members of your staff like IT or accounting. Go wherever you think you’ll get an interesting take on what exactly your publication offers.

Why go this far? Because figuring out your unique value proposition as a paper is harder than you think.

Without speaking to enough people, it’s tempting to settle for easy answers. For example, “Playing a critical role in a democratic society” is an important value proposition, but it’s not a unique value proposition since every other newspaper can claim the same. What do you offer that others don’t? You may have to:

  1. Identify a unique value proposition that already exists within your business

  2. Develop a new unique value proposition based on elements that already exist within your business

As Rick Berke put it at Nieman Labs,Value is the watchword”. With so many publications scrambling for readers’ attention, you’ll need to make your publication’s value abundantly clear.

You unique value proposition may be that you offer the best analysis on a given topic, consistently score scoops, or regularly publish stories that prompt cultural discussions.

Whatever it is, you’ve got to identify it. And here’s the thing: You should wind up with more than one, which will be quite helpful for step 3.

Step 3: Segment your customers and identify segment-specific unique value propositions

IMAGE: Understanding your customers’ reading behavior is an essential part of your reader revenue strategy. (Pixabay)

Who are your readers? You must have the answer to this question, and if you don’t, it’s time to invest in the technology that’ll provide the data analytics you need.

Segment by demographics, geography, interest, behavior, jobs, newsletter subscriptions, engagement levels, and more.

Once you have these segments, the possibilities are endless. But for now, segmenting your readers helps with one main objective: Understanding how to package, position, and price your products, so you can choose whether to move forward with a subscription, membership, or donation model.

You do this by linking your customer segments to your segment-specific value propositions.

IMAGE: Once you’ve segmented your customers, identify unique value propositions that speak to them, so you can strategically package your offerings. (Pelcro)

Step 4: Find a dynamic paywall provider with the flexibility to support different models

Competitive publications are nimble and responsive. You want technology that’s the same.

It goes without saying that your revenue model may change. Or you may decide to add new offerings in the future.

Suppose you start off with a donation model. What happens if you notice big potential for memberships? If you started off with a rigid legacy system designed to manage one model, making the leap will be challenging.

On the other hand, if you start off with a dynamic paywall that’s customizable, flexible, and purpose-built to give media companies the same customer- and data-focused capabilities of popular SaaS tools, you’ll be well equipped to react quickly to changes in the market or changes within your reader base.

Ready to get started? Download this business model canvas to start viewing your paper through a reader revenue lens.

Have any questions about making the shift towards reader revenue? Get in touch for a chat with the Pelcro team.


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