Sunday, December 2, 2012

Will “Subscription Economy” Impact Association Memberships?

Two recent stories outline changes in the economy that might impact association membership strategies.

As you surely know, newspaper subscriptions continue to tank and threaten the business model for most printed newspapers.

You may not know, however, that some companies have created a subscription model as a cornerstone of their businesses.

The question is will either of these impact association memberships and what, if anything, associations can learn from the media.


The New York Times: Running Faster And Faster To Stay In The Same Place 
By Matthew Ingram via Gigaom

Ingram’s piece focuses on the struggle of The New York Times to increase subscription income – including fees from its online content – to replace “tanking” advertising revenues. It notes that incorporating paywalls (paid online subscriptions) may increase revenue but reduce readership (which hurts ad revenue).

What grabbed my attention; however, is this strategy Ingram offers newspapers:

  • “I’ve argued in the past that a membership model that provides added benefits for valued readers — whether it’s ebooks or live events or some combination of such features — is a better approach than a paywall, and the experience of some publishers such as The Atlantic seem to indicate that this is so. To me, newspapers like the Times would be better off trying to get to know their readers better so that they could offer them advertising or other features, rather than simply hitting them with an undifferentiated paywall.”
Interesting. I’m pretty sure that National Geographic magazine is the largest publication using the membership rather than subscription model. But, I have not heard of newspapers dropping subscribers in favor of a member model.

And, if this becomes a trend, what does it mean for associations? Does it become more competition for time and money of our members/prospects? Do newspapers switching to a member model add other programs/services that compete with associations?

The second article was called The Subscription Economy 
By Tien Tzuo via Kernalmag.com
Tzou’s comments that grabbed my attention:

  • “Today, you don’t buy a car or bike; city-dwellers get around with ZipCar or on a Boris Bike. You don’t book a hotel room; instead you subscribe to a bed and breakfast service through AirBnB or grab something last-minute with HotelTonight.”
  • “Food, flashy cars, and fashion are all available via subscription or recurring payments these days. But what many entrepreneurs don’t realise is how, with subscriptions, launching a company has never been easier.”
While I focused on the concept that businesses are creating a “subscription model” to cultivate customers as subscribers/members, this piece also suggests that associations might benefit (lower costs, increase flexibility) in subscribing (rather than buying) its supplies and technology. See my blog Would Outsourcing Benefit Most Associations

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