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Four Lessons on Value From For-Profit Subscription Programs

By / Nov 1, 2019 (Feodora/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

From keeping your everyday users happy to introducing new value propositions for your highest-end fans, for-profit subscription services are offering a lot of lessons these days that associations can learn from.

You may not be a heavy TechCrunch reader or a Lyft superfan, but these companies are doing some really interesting things right now from a subscription standpoint. And some other brands are doing less interesting things that might fall into the “frustrating” category instead.

The one thing tying these moves together is a broader discussion about value. Read on for some quick lessons from the for-profit world:

Don’t put basic features behind a paywall. Last month, the movie-industry tracker Box Office Mojo, which is owned by Amazon through its IMDb subsidiary, was partly paywalled in a major redesign that appeared to have the goal of convincing more users to join IMDbPro. The change put much of the box office data that users went to the site for behind the paywall,  generating a lot of criticism—to the point that the website’s fan base is literally building an alternative version. You may not have to deal with a user revolt on that scale, but the episode points up the importance of keeping your basic content open and free. There was likely another way to redesign Box Office Mojo that would have preserved the tool’s free content while adding paywall-worthy value in places where it made sense.

Throughout, we’ve had to have a strategy that was careful about spending our resources.

Consider resources when building a new paywall. The Verizon-owned news site TechCrunch may not immediately strike you as a service to emulate when building a paywall structure around your content. But its careful approach, as described by Extra Crunch executive editor Danny Crichton, emphasized the strategic importance of maintaining value in places where it already existed and adding more where possible. Crichton noted that he had to do this with limited resources. “When we launched, I was the only dedicated editorial position for Extra Crunch, along with a smattering of freelancers,” he wrote. “As we have proven our success since launch this past February, we have since expanded to three dedicated editorial positions for EC. Throughout, we’ve had to have a strategy that was careful about spending our resources.”

Don’t stop experimenting when looking for ways to maximize value. A year ago, the ride-hailing service Lyft created a $299-per-month “All-Access Plan” that seemed designed for a niche group of people who frequently took rides averaging around $15. That was not an offer that appealed to most Lyft customers. But the experiment led to an idea that might prove more broadly attractive: A $19.99-a-month plan, called Lyft Pink, offers a 15 percent savings on all rides, along with priority pickups at the airport and waived lost-and-found fees. According to The Verge, the new plan will replace the all-access version.

Focus on your superfans. Back in August, the new Harry Potter-themed digital service Wizarding World Digital launched for fans of the popular books and films. In building the platform, Warner Bros. and Pottermore Ltd. realized that some users would be willing to pay more for extra bells and whistles. Which is why the service recently announced Wizarding World Gold, a $74.99-per-year offering that comes with a bunch of welcoming gifts, priority booking for events, access to special events and new merchandise, discounts at online and physical stores, and free e-book copies of the seven Harry Potter novels. Realizing that there would be value at the higher tier, the service can offer more to those who want it.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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