Digital Directions: Subscription Service Readiness Checklist
The overarching question all publishers must ask, the existential über-question trumping all others, is: Where will revenue and earnings come from in the future? The answer to this question is fundamental. All other aspects pertaining to digital media—whether it is asset management, metadata solutions or social media strategies—are dependent upon future revenue dynamics.
Selling an ebook is remarkably like selling a print book. It is essentially just a new delivery format. And while ebook revenues have certainly been encouraging, most publishers realize that simply selling the traditional list in ebook form does not create a complete revenue strategy in terms of earnings and growth. If significant new forms of revenue are to be created, publishers must create and deliver new forms of value by exploiting unique characteristics of digital delivery.
One way to provide a new form of value is to provide customers with the opportunity to access digital collections of related titles on a subscription basis. Groups of titles that are organized around meaningful subject foci offer more than just the sum of their parts. Such digital collections can serve as a significant information resource to specific market segments. Subscription services that offer access to collections of book-based resources are particularly valuable for professional and reference publishers that focus on specific industries.
While the pricing model of such services is based on subscription, it bears less resemblance to periodical delivery than it does to online services like Spotify or Netflix. These online services provide access to resources of value. If the service provides a valuable function to a market segment, particularly in the professional arena, then retention will be high and revenue steady.
For many book publishers, significant future revenue will be derived from similar services that provide access to collections of their content to individuals and groups. While many publishers are familiar with providing libraries with digital access to titles through digital aggregation services, revenue generated from such programs have not been significant. But publishers can drive greater returns by providing their own branded subscription service, based upon their titles alone, and marketed under their brand.
The attractiveness of publisher-branded subscription services over third-party aggregators include:
- the control the publisher has over pricing and presentation
- the consistency of the annuity revenue streams they generate
- the percentage of income retained by the publisher
- the strategic value of having a direct relationship with the customer
Related story: Independent Publisher Turns to Subscriptions to Boost Sales