Digital Publishing Reader Revenue
3 mins read

7 subscription insights from businesses outside publishing

Transferable insights from seven subscription businesses working outside publishing

You can get a  subscription for almost anything these days, from movies and music to software and socks. On his German-language podcast Subscribe Now, Lennart Schneider talks to decision-makers from a variety of industries about their experiences and challenges in the subscription space. Formerly at German weekly Die Ziet, Schneider recently wrote about the key subscription insights that he thinks publishers can transfer to their own reader revenue strategies.

1. Customers first

Software supplier Adobe was a pioneer in pivoting its business model away from retail sales to software-as-a-service. Christoph Kull, VP for Central Europe, explained that the success of its customers is Adobe’s corporate goal and their job is to make sure that the promise of success ‘materializes’. Schneider says that is why Customer Success Managers at successful subscription businesses are measured on customer satisfaction targets rather than sales targets.

2. Customer service

Swapfiets sells bike-subscriptions. Central to its offering is the promise that customers will always have a working bike, making customer service a core part of the subscription fee. To maintain high-levels of customer service,  Andre Illmer, Swapfiets GM for Central Europe, recommends focusing on a limited number of products, saying each additional product increases complexity ‘exponentially’.

3. Onboarding

Urban Sports Club offers a flexible sports subscription that allows users to train at over 10,000 gyms, swimming pools or yoga studios. The business believes onboarding is key, with the goal being to make the initial user experience timely and as good as possible. Torsten Müller, Senior VP for Marketing & Communications told Schneider:

You should ask right at the beginning: what does the customer intend to do with the product? If you know exactly why a user subscribed to your product, then you can make personal recommendations based on that.

4. Community

Membership platform Steady enables independent creators to fund their work through fan contributions. The service focuses on super users, recognizing that only a small percentage of your audience are willing to pay for content. The key is niche content as a focus for community; Steady founder Sebastian Esser believes that most members don’t pay for content, but to feel part of a community of like-minded people. This means active community management is important in acquiring and retaining subscribers, but also in new product development and marketing.

5. Lifetime value

Language learning app Babbel has sold 10 million subscriptions. Focused on building long-term customer relationships, the company increased its minimum subscription term from one to three months without a significant drop in orders. They are using ‘individualization’ to recommend the best next steps for each learner’s individual goals and learning needs. The aim is to go beyond personalized communications and to make each user feel like they are experiencing the app in a way that is unique to them.

6. No time wasters

Bookbeat sells online book subscriptions, offering access to over 500,000 audiobooks and e-books. The business has built a subscription model that filters out ‘bargain hunters’ that would incur publisher license fees for customers unlikely to convert. Its approach avoids users signing up for free trials then canceling on the first day to avoid future subscription payments. BookBeat’s 45-day subscription trial ends immediately upon cancellation, allowing serious users time to test the app, but quickly filtering out users looking for free access.

7. Transparency

Blinkist provides its users with 15-minute summaries of more than 5,500 non-fiction books. The business claims to have set a new industry standard for transparency in their subscription order process. From its initial landing page, subscriber steps and deadlines are listed in detail, with customers clearly informed before their free seven-day trial period expires and charges begin.

This piece was originally published in Spiny Trends and is re-published with permission. Spiny Trends is a division of Spiny.ai, a content analytics and revenue generation platform for digital publishers. For weekly updates and analysis on the industry news you need as a media and publishing business, subscribe to Spiny’s Trends weekly email roundup here.