Paid Memberships As A Way Of Revenue Enhancement

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Paid memberships is a viable avenue for revenue enhancement. This top line growth method leverages not only the existing customer base but also increases the conversion rate of first time visitors to paying and/or repeat users. Looking at revenue from membership fees to access detailed information or full articles like ones implemented by The New York Times, The Economist, and The Washington Post have proven quite successful for these digital media companies.

Membership as a way to grow revenue proved successful for organizations like The New York Times (gaining 130,000 subscribers) and The WSJ (up 300%). Huge growth is still being seen from Amazon Prime and Netflix for their ad-free experiences. The success of companies such as Spotify and SiriusXM exhibit how there is a demand for ad-free radio, and “Pandora recently bragged that it will rapidly erase last year's $343MM net loss thanks to the launch of $9.99 monthly subscriptions”.

Once Singletracks starts focusing the business on making paying customers happy, their product and website will only improve. Mobile game makers discovered this ideology a few years ago, moving from tiny, inferior banner ads at the bottom of screens to a model where free games are so amazing that people willingly fork over dollars to further upgrade their experience. Candy Crush grew revenue by 35% by deleting ads.

Recurring subscription based services have become a popular revenue stream over recent years. Renewals require low effort for both the platform provider and subscribers. Singletracks could potentially increase their revenue from existing members while dedicating their efforts to enhance the value of the membership, to entice the approximately 1M unique visitors that browse their website on a monthly basis, to sign up. If there is a steady and growing stream of traffic to the site, the membership base of customers will continue to grow, and Singletracks will see new membership exceed cancelled or organic attrition that will lead to an increase in revenue opportunities.

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As a digital platform that created original content, the best way to continue to engage members is to keep the blog and content up to date with new photos and tracks from different parts of the country. The new content drives traffic to the member area to help those who want to try out different tracks, and member testimonials discussing how they benefited from information in the blogs/forums in the paid portion of the membership could be leveraged to grow the membership base. With a high portion of internet traffic today residing from mobile devices, an additional recommendation is to offer premium services on mobile devices, typically through an exclusive native mobile application. Given that Singletracks already has a mobile application, this presents an opportunity to further enhance the application and present a reason for exclusivity to paid customers.

Another recommendation to break down barriers to entry to free customers becoming paid customers is to provide a free trial period. Free trials are a popular method leveraged by subscription based services to prove the value of their paid membership. Free trials remove fear around the unknown value a customer may receive from a paid membership and can be seen as a form of guarantee of the service. In addition, paid platforms benefit by providing a money back guarantee in the event a free trial may not be possible. A guarantee is a commitment to the service provided, and gives peace of mind to customers if the service they receive is not to their expectations that they will receive a refund.

Another strategy to make paid membership tiers more attractive is to highlight savings by committing to longer time periods of subscription. Singletracks has previously used this strategy by charing $25 per year and a higher price for a lifetime membership. Another option to consider is to allow the gifting of memberships. The spread of gift memberships can be the ultimate form of loyalty for a customer. Loyal customers couls gift free membership to other fellow bikers to entice them in becoming long term members. Savvy sites count on the fact that 92% of consumers trust referrals from those they know.

To assist in building, packaging, and selling paid membership, we recommend using the following guidelines. The first key is create exclusive content for members, giving them an incentive and a reason to want to buy. Exclusive content or features is a necessity of any paid membership. In this case, we recommend Singletracks consider creating “members only” content. This content may be in the form of a newsletter, special guides or reports, or daily article on your site that is available to members only. When it comes to features, we recommend the key feature Singletracks implements with their paid membership is an ad free experience.

Singletracks should also add an option for members to be able to post classified ads for mountain biking gear on the website, at no charge. Members should have the option to place for free the initial three ads of noncommercial merchandise whether "wanted" or “for sale", for example, and then a small fee charged by Singletracks thereafter. This discount would be of great value to the members and more so create value for the paid membership. Only current members would be allowed to place ads, though. An alternative strategy would be to limit one ad per member, no more than two issues per submission, with all other submissions charged a small additional fee.

Similar to reviews, sponsored posts—also known as native advertising—consist of content that is in line with the blog's overall subject area and mentions a specific product in a natural context. For example, when Jeff produces a podcasts or other contributors write an article, they could mention products tied to the content that have been tested and are disclosed as sponsored content. These are ethical avenues for revenue enhancement, as they are fully disclosed by Singletracks but also endorsed by users and reviews shared to members on the site; an open forum for the member community to share their opinions.

Factors such as monthly traffic, audience reach, social media influence, backlinks, and more can impact the cost for such advertising. Native advertising has proved to be a lucrative revenue generator with blogs earning tens to thousands of dollars for the sponsored content placement. An additional revenue stream Singletracks could consider would be to re-use and resell their original content as an eBook through a “best of” compilation of existing blog posts they have already created. There are a diversity of services and tools that make it easy to create and publish ebooks on Singletracks’ site.

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