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Delivering successful Subscription and Membership services to achieve Recurring Revenue Growth

AffinoCoronavirusCovid-19insightSubscriptionsSubscriptions & Memberships+-
Recurring Revenue Growth

As we move through the current crisis, if there has been one consistent question which has driven discussions with our Affino media clients as they look beyond the immediate chaos of securing remote working, mitigating the cost base, and adapting to prevailing circumstances, it is: “where can we make progress?”


As Affino COO, Jonathan Collins (widely known as JC) is the commercial lead within the business, and with extensive senior experience as a B2B Publisher and Digital Director at VNU/Incisive, DMG World Media, Experian and UBM he has a commercial perspective on media evolution shared by many of our clients.


In the following introduction to our subscription and membership guides he provides some context, insight and perspective on this crucial area for media owners.


With most (if not all) Face to Face (F2F) activity curtailed and huge pressures on advertising activity and spend, the prevailing trading environment seems as hard as granite. Most media businesses now have only one channel to leverage engagement and to create value for and with their audiences - and that is digital.


The long-term demise of cookie-based ad delivery, generating revenue from digital advertising has been a systemic challenge for the past few years, so the opportunity of building digital led subscription and membership services is now becoming the most important area for both B2B and B2C media companies.


A clear recurring revenue opportunity lies in creating, building or migrating free to air users and readers to paid subscribers and members. This in itself is not new, in fact for decades most media companies have been exploring how they can mitigate declines in traditional print and ad inventory advertising revenues by securing subscription revenues – but the present severe restrictions that this crisis has placed on operations, has focused the opportunity on digital engagement, and accelerated the evolution of any associated revenue opportunities.


In the wider business world, the nirvana of recurring revenues is now widely recognized as a key strategic objective. Amazon, Netflix, Apple, our kids’ latest gaming platform, our broadband TV, and our mobile phones - are mostly paid for on a subscription or membership basis – a recurring revenue model. It is not surprising that Netflix has seen such fast earnings and membership growth over the past decade, since this is so well aligned with all the major trends - both on the consumption and delivery sides.


In the media industry, the traditional subscription model has for years been a slow success, but one under under constant pressures from the dearth of free content available online. The subscription model itself has evolved and has been embracing and going beyond the inclusions of premium content, and packaged value offered at varying levels of access and privileges in return for currency – be that data or money. Selling these through different subscription and membership tiers where you bundle in access to content, data and event and community attendance (virtual or in person) has the opportunity for more profitable, scalable, and reliable revenues.


In the realm of specialist B2B media, publishing content “narrow and deep” has a focused value creation. This evolution from “controlled free circulation” and registered user models (to provide valuable audiences for advertisers) has broadly been slow. Sensitivities around attrition based on a payment ask made many publishers reluctant when exploring alternative models and many have instead opted for growth from F2F event based revenue from round tables, through to conferences and awards, and to exhibitions which have been lucrative for many.


As this current crisis unfolds, for reasons nobody would have chosen, media owners are pressed to identify where they can make progress and create value, and any return to F2F activity may be some way off. There can be no doubt that the Covid crisis will have a lasting impact on all in-person events, and when coupled with the disruption happening with the trend from print to digital, both pressures from the crisis and existing fundamental challenges are converging to accelerate this evolution to paid for access to content, data and communities through membership and subscription models.


One key element to our clients’ success in moving to any subscription and membership service is to be audience centric above all else, i.e. not individual event, subscription, or advertising focused. The value proposition needs to be able to evolve to meet the needs of the audience, and the sweet spot of genuinely adding value and responding to audience requirements, is where this model is most successful. It is another evolution for many publishers though, so it does mean the ability to review the true value of the proposition objectively and price the new services accordingly.


A well framed, targeted and sold subscription and membership service can be transformational to long-term stability and revenues, and help organizations move beyond the ever-declining print revenues and the event treadmill.


At Affino we work with a wide roster of media owners who are at the heart of a wide variety of vertical markets. These businesses are B2B, B2C and pure consumer, and all have variations of all the business models which have previously worked. What unifies the success of their digital operations is their focus on digital engagement. The most successful have invested in the continual iteration of their proposition to deliver value in a convenient, secure and attractive interaction with their audiences and communities.


We have collated a series of key subscription and membership guides here which offer insight around deploying membership and subscription business models along with the associated digital dynamics, which support successful subscription and membership businesses.


These will be helpful when considering the following opportunities:

    • If you are providing your services for free and looking to grow your subscription revenues
    • Ensuring that you have the right data in place to make the best judgements on the service(s) to be provided
    • Identify what and where is the most engaging content, data and (virtual) events for each cohort of your audience.
    • Coming up with the initial subscription and membership propositions
    • Identifying the initial lead lists and evolving your sales approach effectively
    • Onboarding your initial subscribers and evolving the service effectively to meet their needs
    • Sezing the opportunity as right now, you also have the opportunity to provide free three- or six-month memberships for your community, with an eye of evolving that to a paid service later or even in parallel with your free offer.


Here are four examples of Affino clients who are all offering a successful subscription or membership offering in very different B2B verticals.


Each is leveraging the value of their content and community in a different way, and all are monetizing their value proposition to great effect.


Both Affino CEO Markus Karlsson and myself would be delighted to explore how you can make progress to realize new digital revenue. Please contact us here: or

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