There’s a subscription for everything these days. Literally everything.
From Amazon Prime and HelloFresh to Netflix — not to mention its numerous competitors — most of us are juggling at least a handful of subscriptions.
There seems to be new subscription-based businesses launching every day. But consulting giant Deloitte’s annual survey of Digital Media Trends suggests subscription fatigue may be setting in for consumers.
They found that 40% of millennials and about 30% of Gen X and Gen Z were “overwhelmed” by their subscription count. Before the pandemic set in, the average American had a dozen different media and entertainment subscriptions; millennials averaged a whopping 17 different subscriptions.
The growth of subscription fatigue is concerning for magazines and organizations which rely on a subscription or membership-based business model. It’s never been more important to prove your worth to subscribers.
At the same time, it’s also important to ensure your subscription or membership rate is competitive. There’s a lot of quality content out there, and not all of it is behind subscription paywalls or exclusively in print. If your subscribers aren’t getting what they want from you, they will find it elsewhere. Faster or cheaper can quickly undermine your value equation.
What can organizations do to soothe the impact of subscription fatigue? There’s no single solution or magic formula to address the potential impact of subscription fatigue. But no matter your niche, some recent moves by large media organizations might provide some inspiration for your own strategy.
Use engagement metrics to create quality content
Forbes is bringing in audience-supported writers for their new paid newsletter platform. Forbes aims to increase digital subscriptions by bringing on “journalist entrepreneurs” operating their own paid newsletters through platforms like Substack.
The takeaway for smaller subscription-based organizations?
Allow your audience to influence the content you provide. Forbes is acquiring journalists who have demonstrated their content is of interest to specific audiences. Most of us don’t have the deep pockets to acquire audiences, content and writers, but you can use your own website metrics and other feedback mechanisms to understand which types of content your audience wants.
With social media and website data, we’ve never had a clearer picture of who our audiences are and what they want. The feedback potential goes beyond comments, likes and page views too. Average time on page is a strong determinant of the quality of your content. Other metrics to consider include average session duration, unique visitors and pages per session.
If your association or publication doesn’t have a strong online presence, annual subscriber or member surveys can generate beneficial feedback. A survey for non-renewing subscribers can be insightful in understanding price points, competitor conquests and perceived value.
There are so many different ways to engage with and generate feedback from your audience, it can be hard to land on just a few. Leverage the information you gather, and you’ll be less likely to land on their subscription purge lists.
Explore more intimate advertiser relationships
In contrast to Forbes’ focus on audience-driven content, Rolling Stone is redefining sponsored content in 2021. They recently announced they are offering thought leaders interested in reaching their readership the opportunity to publish original content for a mere $2,000.
What do these developments mean for association journals and niche magazines?
It may be time to revisit your relationship with sponsored content. Although avoided by many associations in the past, paid content can offset postage and other increases with the added benefit of subsidizing content creation and development, as long as it doesn’t undermine your mission or brand.
As Deloitte’s report indicated, most consumers prefer ad-supported streaming rather than content solely supported by their subscription payments. It might make sense to weigh the merits of the “Rolling Stone route.”
You’ve worked hard to build a dedicated base of loyal subscribers; your advertisers want to reach them. Offering more in-depth sponsored content, or even redefining what sponsored content could be for your publication, can be a good way to boost your advertising bottom line. If the content, products and services advertised closely align with your subscribers’ wants and needs, sponsored content could elevate your brand credibility.
This isn’t to argue for throwing your entire subscription model out the window, but some increased ad revenue can help offset any revenue lost to subscription fatigue.
Now is the time to reaffirm your value to subscribers with content they want and hedge against subscription fatigue by exploring new advertising relationships. Despite the reality of subscription fatigue, some projections conclude that eventually an overwhelming majority of businesses will offer subscriptions of some kind.