John Sheehy

The Advantages of Synchronization for Publication and Media Subscriptions

Print is dead… Many have claimed. Analysts and experts have been predicting the demise of print in favor of digital formats for decades — as far back as Roger Fidler’s 1981 groundbreaking essay titled Newspapers in the Year 2020. Yet here we are, 40 years later. 

Yes, print sales across all markets are generally down. And yes, digital sales across all markets are generally up. However, these numbers don’t tell the whole story, and there are other factors that should be taken into consideration:

  1. Monetizing digital subscriptions is not a straight-forward process. AdvantageCS has been providing solutions to publishers for over 40 years. During the late 90s and early 2000s, we saw many clients begin to offer digital subscriptions for free, almost as an afterthought to their core print offerings  — perhaps a devastating miscalculation that has shaped consumer expectations

  2. Print book sales have ticked up over the past two years, largely thought to be an effect of the Coronavirus pandemic. It remains to be seen whether that trend can continue or will start to fade.

  3. Existing subscription companies increased their overall customer base by 31% in 2021. This reflects the focus on consumers’ ability to participate in subscription services rather than purchasing a product, service, or content in full.

  4. Niche content publishers are reporting print circulation stabilization as well. The numbers are not as robust as in days past, but they are no longer dropping at alarming rates. You can find some positive (or at least neutral) outlooks for print in most markets.

Are Digital Media Publications the Future of Subscriptions?

From our view of the subscription market and trends with our clients, print still has an important role to play with publishers for the foreseeable future. Some people still want print— either the demographic and/or preference. Additionally, the print component may still represent the flagship of the publisher, which is important to maintain. Going completely digital can dilute brand awareness. Publishers still need to be everywhere that people want them to be.

However, to position themselves for a bright future, publishers are cleverly bundling their print and digital content. This seems simple enough, but there is often tremendous sophistication behind those bundles, including: 

  • Handling different periods of time when content is served.

  • Delivering varying combinations of content.

  • Supporting migration paths for customers looking to swap content at any given time.

  • Offering different pricing plans that change from month to month.

  • Handling complex customer service requests (such as suspensions or billing the customer before/after content delivery).

Advantage provides hundreds of features to manage both print and digital media subscriptions with ease — either separately or combined. These features are all designed with considerations for marketing, customer service, fulfillment, and finance. When combining print and digital, we simply call this… Synchronization. We introduced this concept in our software five years ago and have seen a steady increase in development demand. In fact, our most active client’s adoption is about 40% with additional projects on the horizon.

Optimizing Your Publication & Media Subscriptions through Synchronization

Fundamentally, synchronization is serving subscriptions while keeping all digital and print content in sync. 

For example, bundling a print newspaper with digital access that automatically renews each month, with a credit card payment that sees a 5% increase over the first six months until leveling off is supported by synchronization. Or imagine weekly media subscriptions that include digital content and monthly print subscriptions — again, synchronization is the answer.

Migrate from a bundle including print to digital-only? Yes! Migrate from digital-only to a bundle that includes print? Yes! Suspend the bundle for a week? Yes. Accurate earnings/liability? Flexible renewals? Recurring payments? Yes. Yes. Yes!

Advantage is specifically designed to support both straightforward and complex models using the same set of concepts and features. Platforms unable to keep these aspects synchronized present many headaches for publishers — renewals, billing, distribution, customer service issues, changing content queries, and many, many more.

Is Synchronization the Right Strategy for my Publication Subscription?

  •  Do you serve print and digital content together?

  • Do you and/or your customers think about a bundle as content that just gets fulfilled regardless of medium?

  • Do you think about subscriptions over time vs. issues?

  • Do you need comprehensive customer service options for upgrading/downgrading/swapping content regardless of medium?

  • Do you need end-to-end management of a subscription from promotions to fulfillment (digital or print) to financial handle earnings/liabilities?

  • Do you need flexible models for synchronization, non-synchronization, print only, digital only, and print + digital?

If you can answer yes to any of these questions, then Advantage’s synchronization is the right move for you.

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