Individual vs. all-you-can-read subscriptions
As we move forward into the ever-changing digital content world, publishers have to ask themselves what type of subscription model will dominate in the future. Publishers are used to the simple individual model, where a consumer buys access for a single title (e.g., newspaper or magazine).
All-you-can-read models have become quite popular recently. These are the ones where a consumer pays one monthly fee and gets access to a number of different titles. One of the more popular services is Next Issue, which provides dozens of magazines for one monthly fee.
All-you-can-read models aren’t limited to newspapers and magazines. Services like Books24x7 and Safari Books Online have provided consumers with unlimited access to books on technology and business for many years now. Startups like Oyster are also getting attention.
Having been affiliated with Safari earlier in my career I can tell you that publishers have been, and are still, nervous about participating in these all-you-can-read models. They worry they won’t make much money and that the services devalue their content. Many authors share that point of view.
There’s some merit to these concerns, but publishers need to think about the added reach they enable for their content. Subscribers who might not otherwise discover or read this content now have access to it and publishers earn a fee that’s prorated based on how much of it is consumed.
It seems inevitable that we’ll see more and more of the all-you-can-read models in the future. It’s what consumers are starting to demand, so publishers who decide not to opt in do so at their own risk.
And while all-you-can-read models are going to gain momentum, there’s no reason for publishers to assume the individual subscription model will go away; the future of the individual subscription depends on the value proposition.
Publishers need to ask themselves, “what value can I add to an individual subscription that’s not part of the all-you-can-read model?” They need to think about what additional content they can offer consumers to get them to stick with an individual product subscription. For book, newspaper or magazine publishers, that might mean more rich content (video). It might mean more updated content. It might also mean more bonus content (e.g., material that didn’t make it into the book/newspaper/magazine).
I think publishers should participate in both models. The risk of not being part of the all-you-can-read model is irrelevance; your content no longer matters to the consumer who pays for the all-you-can-read model.
I can say from first-hand experience that this is exactly what’s happening with me. I’m a Next Issue subscriber and I can’t keep up with all the magazines they provide. I don’t have time to even consider magazines that aren’t in the Next Edition catalog, and that can’t be a good for situation non-participating publishers to find themselves in.