How will subscription publishing survive in an online and search engine dominated world?

Jemima Kiss
jemimakiss Clicked on link + page asks for subscription = close page + go to another site. Conclusion: Not good business model. 


A while ago I bookmarked this Tweet from Jemima Kiss – one of Guardian’s new technology journalists. Came across it again this morning.

So, what’s the future for subscription publishers?



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4 responses to “How will subscription publishing survive in an online and search engine dominated world?

  1. The subscription marketing future surely rests, at least in part, in sites that provide both free and paid-for content.

    The trick, of course, is working out where to put the ‘jump’ between the two.

    Perhaps we subscription marketers need to be more like our controlled circulation magazine marketing ‘cousins’.

    1. Build free circulation (site traffic).
    2. Give away free mags in turn for an annual audit signature (free content, ezines etc)
    3. … only then move to monetize through paid-for content (online paid content, subs etc)

    Increasingly, site visitors need to ‘buy-in’ to our free stuff, before they’ll buy our paid-for stuff.

    Necessitates a circulation-marketing mindset?

  2. Rory Brown

    Chris – I agree completely with your analysis. The phrase is ‘freemium’ and that is certainly the model I am looking at.

    Thanks for dropping by.


  3. I ran a crafting magazine publishing company in the 1990’s. Subscription and newsstand sales. We also ran consumer trade shows. In 1998 I created a feeble web site to promote a cross stitch consumer trade show. It went live at midnight and by 8AM we had $300,000 in orders. I knew a shift had begun.

    In 1999, I left to start a women’s lifestyle content network, convinced the shift would be swift and efficient. We ended up developing a marketing technology that was used by many traditional publishers to enhance web site revenue.

    Using the same principals of direct mail and newsstand sales, I have launched several lifestyle content portals. Our newest site is a craft site called, So, I see Internet and traditional publishing co-existing.

    I think every traditional publisher should follow on-line best practices and leverage existing content to drive new subscribers and income sources. The traditional model has changed, and migrated on-line in parts.

    That said, we have worked closely over the years with traditional publishers to generate soft starts. And, while overall newsstand and direct mail subscriptions are down in general, consumers are passionate about niche content.

  4. Rory Brown

    Thanks Stuart.

    I agree that traditional and new media will continue to operate side by side. My background is in subscription publishing and I know that a lot of publishers look enviously at media properties with a good subscription base during times like this.
    My query in this post was that in an online world if you keep your assets hidden behind a subscription wall how will new customers get to hear about you?


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