Digital Publishing Reader Revenue
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Subscription Boxes Opens Up New Revenue Stream

Subscription boxes are rapidly becoming a growing revenue opportunity for publishers – according to a new survey by subscription experts Jellyfish Connect16-24 year olds who participate in subscription box schemes now spend over £66 a month on single boxes containing their favourite magazine along with a variety of other gifts.

According to the survey, almost a fifth of UK consumers have now signed up for a subscription box scheme in the past six months, double that of 2016. Vast numbers of consumers are now signing up for regular deliveries from brands as diverse as Harper’s Bazaar, Good Housekeeping, Abel & Cole, Birchbox, Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s Shaving Goods. Even children’s publisher First News has created a box for children called the First Wonder Box.

What is a subscription box?

In a nutshell, subscription boxes are the reoccurring delivery of niche products in a single cardboard container, with customers often receiving large discounts on the items placed within them. The products are often of greater value than the subscription itself, allowing customers to save money on products they already enjoy as well as test new products at deep discount.

For publishers, it allows them to add a brand new revenue stream to their subscriptions offering, whilst simultaneously forging deeper engagement with a small percentage of super-users. It also creates greater rapport with a publisher’s core brand advertisers who are able to use the channel for product sampling.

Whilst subscription boxes aren’t cheap – Hearst’s Good Housekeeping subscription box is a typical example and starts at £40 – many boxes offer tiered levels of value (as well as frequency of delivery) which makes them affordable to a wider cross-section of consumers.

Food and drink is the most popular category, followed by beauty goods, fashion, shaving and arts and crafts. Somewhat surprisingly perhaps, more men sign up to subscription boxes than women, with 16-24 year olds outspending over-55s by a factor of three (£66 as against £20).

Subscription boxes typically fall into two categories: discovery boxes and convenience boxes. Typically, discovery subscription boxes will contain between 4 to 7 items that are a mixture of full-size and sample-size products, with an emphasis on letting customers trial new products as well as enjoy those products they like. Convenience-style boxes, on the other hand, deliver staple items with an emphasis on reducing daily hassle. HelloFresh, for example, delivers meals on a daily basis so consumers can avoid the hassle of a grocery shop as well as build up their culinary skills.

What next?

For UK publishers looking to enter the subscription box market, Jellyfish Connect offers publishers an opportunity to make a foray into subscription boxes via its new subscription marketplace, uOpen.

Supported by large-scale digital marketing campaigns and social activity, uOpen promises to drive traffic from consumers interested in and searching for subscription boxes, making it easy, fast and safe for them to buy through the platform. Operating on a revenue share agreement, it’s free and straightforward for publishers to set up and list their boxes on the site. Jellyfish Connect will also support publishers moving into the subscription box sector through its online knowledgebase and industry insight guides.

The first publishers to debut on the site are First News with its new subscription box, First Wonder Box (image above); and Stack Box, which curates alternative reads, a discovery of intelligent and unique independent magazines.

Whether publishers use a platform like uOpen or forge their own path ahead, there is no question that subscription boxes are on an exponential curve upwards and offer a lucrative new revenue stream with the added bonus of deepening loyalty with readers. As Hearst has shown with its lavish beauty boxes, when executed properly, subscription boxes are hugely successful commercial initiatives.

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