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TechCrunch launches premium offering: “Repository of all things that no one tells you”

Digital publisher TechCrunch—which specializes in tech news, reviews and profiling startups—recently launched its first premium offering, Extra Crunch, “an additional layer of content, coverage, product and events-based offerings for our most regular and engaged readers.”

As publishers increasingly put their content behind paywalls, TechCrunch has gone the way of The Guardian. Content that was free remains free, but paying readers get additional benefits.

TechCrunch’s premium product focused on the start-up community is relatively niche and gives the publisher the opportunity to deliver unique value to its audience. Here’s what it is offering to Extra Crunch consumers.

  • Exclusive articles and deep dive analysis into established unicorn companies
  • Access to an active community of founders and experts
  • Member-only benefits at TechCrunch events
  • Conference calls with industry leaders on trending news, including earnings previews, IPO breakdowns and tentpole moments

“Extra Crunch is a utility layer on TechCrunch.com that gives you the tools and resources you need to build a better startup,” according to the company. “Extra Crunch membership offers exclusive access to analysis of successful startups, resources on company building, lists of verified experts in key services, enhanced reader tools, conference calls and more.”

Here’s a 30-second overview of the membership program:

Extra Crunch costs $15 per month or $150 per year with new members getting a 30-day free trial. It is currently available in the US, Canada, UK, Germany, France, and Spain. The publisher plans to expand further later this year.

Travis Bernard, Head of Audience Development at TechCrunch and Product Lead on Extra Crunch told Digiday that they “spent two years interviewing readers and event attendees to figure out what to include in the product.”

In addition to cutting closer to the bone on the topics we already cover on a daily basis, we’ll be tackling a lot of the practical nuts and bolts issues that confront founders, entrepreneurs, analysts, and tech workers. We want to gather the expertise and knowledge of the founders that have come before and those that are in the thick of it now.

Matthew Panzarino, Editor-in-Chief, TechCrunch

“Thinking beyond just publishing”

As more publishers put up paywalls, readers are going to have to choose between what to pay for and what to skip. They cannot keep paying for accessing every site they visit. But they are more likely to pay for content that’s not available elsewhere.

“By thinking beyond just “publishing” and focusing on what your readers want and need, you may also find ways to charge for premium offerings without walling off your web site,” says D. Eadward Tree, a pseudonymous magazine-industry insider who provides insights on publishing on his blog, Dead Tree Edition.

Gating content, even if it’s a metered paywall, is risky; page views and visitor numbers drop, and frequent readers (who do not intend to subscribe) are less inclined to check out content as they used to (when there was no paywall). They become concerned about reaching their article limit before coming across a real good story.

According to publishing consultancy Mequoda, “a consumer web site is lucky if it gets just 1% of its visitors to pay for a subscription.” D. Eadward Tree says, “To thrive with a paywall, you’ll need to put special focus on that 1% who pony up for a subscription. Today they are free-newsletter subscribers and frequent visitors; tomorrow they will be people looking to see if you’re really giving them gotta-have somethings they can’t find on the free web.”

TechCrunch and its network of websites currently get over 15 million unique visitors. Bernard said to Digiday that they are looking at converting between 1 to 2% of their readership.

In its Editor-in-chief Matthew Panzarino’s words, “We hope to make it (Extra Crunch) a repository of all the things that no one tells you, no one wants to discuss in-depth or you just have to figure out ad-hoc as you build a company.”

“Creative ways to bring content to subscribers”

Several publishers, including The Guardian, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, The Quartz and The Independent have implemented membership programs. With a few variations, these programs offer readers exclusive content and a deeper or behind-the-scenes look into stories. The Guardian, for example, offers paying members access to exclusive content, events, and masterclasses.  

The goal is to find the most creative ways to bring content to subscribers that makes them want to continue to be loyal readers. We’re still giving you the journalism, but we’re giving you a different experience.

Miki King, Chief Marketing Officer, The Washington Post

Extra Crunch also complements TechCrunch’s broader strategy of investing in events to provide a holistic offering for the start-up community.

Panzarino told Digiday that TechCrunch, “Has an events business that is nearly 10 years old, and puts on more than a dozen events per year across multiple continents.” And that “more than 15,000 people attend a TechCrunch event every year. It is successful enough to insulate the subscription business from any near-term pressure to perform.”

“Attractive alternative to subscriptions”

The move is part of a larger trend of publishers creating new revenue streams through subscription and membership offerings. Along with bringing in revenues, membership programs also help in building engagement which can lead to long term paid subscribers.

“Widening audience participation and creating communities has now become a top priority for publishers,” says Mary Hogarth, Managing Director of The Magazine Expert. “Memberships schemes are fast becoming an increasingly attractive alternative to subscriptions. These enable publishers to not only build a community but package their content across print, digital and online. This model certainly has the potential to build a strong revenue stream and achieve sustainability for the long term.”

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