At first glance memberships and subscriptions can look quite similar. So what’s the difference?
Subscribers pay a defined, regular amount in exchange for a certain product (eg. 12 issues of a magazine).
Memberships, on the other hand, are not simply transactional. They are about upholding the relationship between a publisher and its community. They enable people who value an independent publication to give money, time, expertise and ideas to support that publication.
People become members in order to support or show appreciation for a publication and help keep it running or even improve its content. They are motivated by their wish to support a publisher, because they see their interests or values aligning with the publisher’s and feel an affiliation with their project.
Concrete benefits for members
Some publishers choose to offer benefits like exclusive content or a behind-the-scenes peek as a “thank you” to their members. These benefits may be viewed as an additional incentive for people to become members, or as simply a nice way to show appreciation.
Members become part of a community
One major benefit of becoming a member is that you join a community. As a newspaper subscriber, you probably don’t know your fellow subscribers. But many membership-funded publishers host members-only discussion forums online, private Facebook groups and even face-to-face meetings for members. The membership model works best when publishers keep in touch with their members – members may even make story suggestions or be invited to have their say on the future direction of the publication.
In our experience, memberships can also work perfectly well even without benefits: many members sign up not because of concrete “rewards”, but because they believe in a publisher and want to see them thrive. Members are paying to ensure the longevity of their favorite publishers.
As a publisher, memberships offer income you can count on, which means less stressing about trying to pay your bills and more time for creativity, along with a loyal, committed community ready to enjoy your work. Rather than producing clickbaity content designed to meet the demands of someone else’s algorithm, memberships allow publishers a chance at creative independence, which in turn benefits the members who enjoy more nuanced, considered content.
Check out some of the hundreds of publishers already earning a sustainable income on Steady or create your own project.