Subscription Business Model Series – Magazines

~ 3 min read | June 9

Subscription Business Model - Magazine

In our continuing series of subscription business models, today we focus on magazine subscription sites and what it takes to build a successful site.

Digital publishers have long been looking for a way to generate revenues with their content. The major revenue options that digital publishers have been opting for include native advertising, banner ads, sponsored content, affiliate sales, product sales and subscriptions.

Overview of Magazine Subscription Business

An online magazine website offers content that is specially formatted to look like print magazines and enables the content to be downloaded. Some magazines are interactive and may include links and videos as part of their content. Others are made in the form of digital archives of versions of the print magazines. Any website that simply charges users to access premium content does not fall into the magazine website.

Magazine subscription business model follows a simple concept: the publisher produces niche magazine content and charges readers for access. Readers can purchase subscription or can buy a digital issue without subscription.

On paying, readers can log into their account and download the magazine in different formats, usually PDF or online reading. Apart from this, depending on the plan that one has paid for, it may be possible to download past issues, get expert commentaries, download accompanying study data sheets and other perks.

Publishers may offer readers a free or paid trial of their services and may later charge them upfront for a number of months. Online magazine publishing is poised to explode and Apple already has enabled access of digital magazines on the iPad. Businesses can diversify their revenue streams by offering magazine subscriptions.

Case Studies: Magazine Subscription Businesses

Successful online magazine publishers know that a magazine’s appeal lies in user experience. Online magazines may not have the human touch that print magazines have but this does not diminish their user experience. Below are two successful magazine business models:

a) PC World Magazine

PC World print magazine is a well known product among tech enthusiasts. The magazine offers buying advice through evaluations and opinionated reviews of new products. The magazine is an authority on everything from securing wireless networks to troubleshooting Windows.

Apart from the print version, customers can also 

subscribe to the digital version available for the iPad, Kindle, Nook, Google and Zinio. The monthly recurring subscription for the iPad version costs $1.99.

If you are thinking that PC World has been successful because it is a big brand, let’s look at a more niche focused example.

PC World Subscription

b) Creative Knitting Magazine

The Creative Knitting Magazine is a hub for everything that a knitting enthusiast would want to know about the craft. However, this is a not just a magazine archive membership site.

Apart from accessing current and issues dating back to the last 2 years, paid subscribers also get other premium content such as knitting patterns. Users can subscribe to both the print or digital editions. The subscription for the digital edition costs $15.97 a year.

Creative Knitting Subscription

Offline Subscription Magazines

Print magazines are also selling subscriptions online. In most cases, the online price is cheaper than what readers would typically pay for the magazines on newsstands. Oprah Magazine, National Geographic, Cosmopolitan, Sports Illustrated and many others offer online subscriptions for their print editions either through their websites or third party websites like Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and EBay.

Barnes and Noble - Subscription

Magazines sales are driven by audiences that need the content provided. For online magazines, content and user experience are even more important. Identifying your market and providing content that resonates well with them can help make a brand name for your magazine and get users fast.

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John Solomon

Marketing Leader / Sales Enabler. Head of India Operations for @Infrascale / @sosonlinebackup.