Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.
The truth is that subscriptions have been discussed as a “cutting-edge” business model in publishing for at least the past 4 years. And, yet, there is little discussion about the evolution of the subscription. Focus tends to be on forcing traditional book product into a model similar to that of the magazine world.
However, there is a major flaw from the standpoint of a media company in adopting the one (or variations of one) size model: customers typically do not want everything you give them. Increasingly, subscriptions are customizable, a more modular approach to the subscription, that allows customers to purchase and access only those things that they are interested in purchasing.
There are a few “traditional” subscriptions that have worked and continue to work, McSweeney’s being one of them. Here, if you like McSweeney’s content, you will most like enjoy the majority of what they send you. But, this model is built on the premise that their audience is specific, narrow, and very well-defined. And that works.
But, what do you do when your audience is diverse? What of the larger market and increasing customer demand for only relevant product and content?
In these cases, it is inevitable that the subscription itself evolve into a new model that we’ve not yet employed in the publishing world. For my own purposes, I am going to call this the modular subscription.
What do I mean by this? Well, it’s simple: let people subscribe to only what they want. Do not force customers to pay for something they don’t want or need.
You know how when you call to set up your internet, and they sell you phone and cable for a “reduced” price? Well, that is the cable companies forcing their customer to pay for services they do not want/need. I know exactly zero friends who have and use a land line anymore as their main channel of communication. Most people I know don’t even have a land line. Or they have one because “it was cheaper to purchase all three then just internet or internet and cable.”
This is the opposite of what is good. And the opposite of what we’re trying to accomplish with Holocene. The modular subscription that we are detailing now, is one where users are not punished for knowing what they want. They are not “offered a deal” that actually makes their purchase less useful. And they are not needlessly charged for content and/or services that they have no intention of using.
Our goal is to let our customers be adults, let them choose what they want and feel comfortable purchasing from us, and still retaining them as customers.
An example that I personally have looked at, am a subscriber to, and talk about often is ClubW. I’ll let you explore their subscription on your own, but basically they are a wine of the month club offering customers a subscription that is flexible (within their basic guidelines). Want to take a month off? Sure. No questions. Want to order more? Sure, no change in plan, each additional item is the same price. Want to change your plan to suit your needs better? Absolutely, change it whenever you want, to whatever meets your current needs.
To me, this is the way to go about offering a subscription model that works for customers and businesses, and offers the most superior user experience. And this is where we are taking cues from around the internet in terms of devising a usable, current, smart modular subscription model for the microzine.
Ultimately, business models must interact with customers. As producers of digital products, we are required to make sure our products are usable; by which I mean every aspect of our products. UX/UI considerations are not the whole story. Being a d2c digital media company necessarily implies that every single aspect of our companies and products from which the possibility of a customer interaction is present must make sense for our customers.
As the startup life is never boring, I am off to Portland this weekend and part of next week to work with Corey and Kim on nailing designs and business models and jambalaya, I’m told. I am sure I will have much to report back next week.
In the meantime, as a buyer of digital media, what would you want in a subscription?
Image: Silhouette of the head, brain, … via Shutterstock.