Get Media Industry Alerts
Visit min's sister site:

Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn   Google+   
Latest Issue »
Subscribe Now »
Get 4
Free Issues »

Top 5 Paid Models Worth Watching

Friday, July 10, 2009

You say they won’t pay for content online? They, if we mean consumers, do indeed pony up their credit cards regularly for online content—yes, even content from magazine brands. As we gear up for our own June 21 Webinar on “Cracking the Code” of paid content, we wanted to call out five models not everyone knows about yet. Each bears watching as publishers contemplate how to make digital media pay.

1. PC Magazine Digital: Didn’t they fold that thing earlier this year, you may ask? Well, not really. Not only did Ziff Davis bring the venerable PC Magazine brand online but the publisher also offered a formatted digital magazine version of the familiar print book to current and new subscribers. We count ourselves as one of them, spending $9.97 for 12 monthly issues. ZD CEO Jason Young tells us the digi-mag continues to attract subscribers. Will they stick over time? ZD seems to have made the price low enough to qualify as an impulse buy, but it will be interesting to see if a print book can have a paid afterlife as a digital book.

2. BHG: Decorating Inspiration: This “toolbox” for home decorators includes more than 20,000 images of rooms that inspire creativity with a suite of zooming, saving and printing tools. A subscription to Better Homes magazine is tossed in as a bonus. The package is priced at $19.95 for that three-month window when many people plan and execute new projects. Creating price points and packages aimed at specific times of life or events or needs is another way to find a paying audience. If the content meets the pressing need, then the value is apparent to the consumer. Don’t just think about what users will pay for—think about when users will be eager to pay for something that at another time might not have real value for them.

3. American Patchwork and Quilting Inner Circle Club: Also part of the BHG family, this unique package includes a tangible hardcover book for quilters as well as a calendar, patterns, six issues of a newsletter, free product samples and how-to videos. The full package is $54.95, but Meredith has structured it wisely to straddle virtual and physical assets. By piling on enough freebies and “bonuses” the publisher can rightfully claim that the cost seems like a savings. Tangibility—offering something physical—is one way to get over the consumer’s reluctance to pay simply for access.

4. Men’s Health Personal Trainer: Rodale has quickly become a leader in turning content into services users will pay to get. More than half a dozen “clubs” give users access to personal training and diet advice, a community of peers for support and progress tracking tools. In most of these clubs, Rodale uses a freemium model of giving users 30 days of free access and then successfully remarketing to those who don’t continue on with the $45.50/three-month fee. The typical club member sticks with the program for nine months, or three billing cycles, and they tend to be some of the site’s best prospects for other clubs and book sales. Give users experts, a time frame, goals and the right tools, and the value becomes tangible on their bellies.

5. People Celebrity News Tracker: One of the smartest things People did with its $1.99 iPhone app is not to call it a mobile magazine. We would argue that the well-designed app of star news and celebrity indexes and images is just that—a magazine, but the “Tracker” label gives it the patina of utility. The company behind the platform, ScrollMotion, has partnered with Hearst, Harvard Business Review and Condé Nast to bring numerous other magazine brands to the iPhone, and almost all will involve a paid component. The subscription and incremental payment options within iPhone apps are about to change the way publishers think about mobile revenue streams in particular, and perhaps all digital models for paid content.

These are just a few of the many instances of pay models we find every week. In coming weeks we will be assembling more examples of magazine and other content brands actively selling the goods online. We invite publishers to submit some of their well-hidden pay-to-play products so we can build a comprehensive catalog of paid content models that work. And on June 21 executives from Consumer Reports, Harvard Business Review, Cygnus Business Media, and ScrollMotion will be sharing their experience selling the media goods.

If you have breaking news to share please contact min's editors.

Friend Us on Facebook at

Third-party providers that digitize print magazines offer the service so cheaply that most any size publisher can afford it. Just a new version of shovelware.
Posted by Stuart Chirls on Saturday, July 11, 2009 @ 10:22 PM
With the exception of PC Magazine, none of these are sustainable business models. "Throwing in" a subscription as part of a physical package seems clever, but what happens when it's time to renew? Rely on the disingenuous auto-subscribe that's driven your readership to the brink?

And don't get me started on PC Magazine's insistence on preserving the physical formatting in digital media. How long will we in media remain ignorant of the potential of interactivity.

To paraphrase Nietzsche, Print is Dead. But there will be caves for hundreds of years in which people will continue to live in its shadow.
Posted by Ashwin on Monday, July 13, 2009 @ 09:41 AM
Having been publishing an on-line magazine for eight years (yesterday 2,200+ readers reading 25,000 pages for the day) I am now in discussions for a New Year launch of a HotelDesigns print magazine. I know how the web works and how a subscription part of a website can work. Now I am going to use print to do things that cannot be done in digital. The media are different. Facsimilies of magazines on the web are crap. Video and interactivity will continue to drive websites forward technologically, as will increasing web speeds. However print offers something different, more contemplative, deeper perhaps, which I would like to exploit. So I'm going to try it
Posted by Patrick Goff on Tuesday, July 14, 2009 @ 03:34 AM
Patrick - best of luck. I'd be interested to hear what, specifically, you're hoping to leverage through print. I definitely see value in its infinite transportability (I still tear articles out of magazines and stuff them in my pocket for my subway ride) and its ability to drive branded advertising (i.e. "nice" advertisers who don't demand results).

What value do you hope to bring to your readers "that cannot be done in digital"?
Posted by Ashwin on Tuesday, July 14, 2009 @ 12:38 PM
What are your thoughts on NYT's new paid model for online ontent?
Posted by Dwayne on Wednesday, March 23, 2011 @ 03:51 PM

Post a Comment


Please enter the letters or numbers you see in the image.

More Breaking News & Views

Breaking News & Views Archives

min's Integrated Marketing Awards
Entry Deadline: July 8
Enter Today

min Webinar: 
How To Get Even More From Facebook 

Watch Ondemand

min's Magazine Media Awards Announced

View the Winners & Honorable Mentions

See all events and awards
Search Jobs
Media Jobs
Email Marketing Specialist
Harvard Business Publishing
Brighton, MA

Managing Editor
University of Maryland, Baltimore
Baltimore, MD

Attorney Editor State Q&A
New York, NY

Vice President for College Relations and Marketing
Washington College
Chestertown, MD

University of Maryland
College Park, MD

White Papers
Get even smarter.  Need a quick primer on a media topic? Download a white paper!

Optimizing Your Printer Services - By MRI

Media Insights: minsider Viewpoints from the Front Lines - By min

View Whitepapers
min Contests

min contests

Want to sponsor a min contest?

Inside min This Week

Free Eletters — Sign up Now