A membership is not a subscription, even if both are based on regular payments. In the print era, we paid a subscription to own a newspaper or a magazine. So it was about ownership. Digital media in turn sell access. In return for a regular payment, I get unlimited access to a selection of content. Only then do I pay. Spotify, for example, does not deal in music, but unlimited access to music, anytime. Netflix does not sell films, but access to its film library.
With subscriptions, it doesn't matter who I get the right of use from. If the Bundesliga is more expensive with Sky than elsewhere, then I switch. We simply take the cheapest provider. For written texts, the price of the cheapest offer is free. So why should I spend money on it?
Media on Steady don't offer access to all content in the world (all music! all Hollywood movies! all Bundesliga games!), but only a specific selection. However, access to content alone is rarely enough to get someone to pay. This is where the second P comes into play.
2. Passion (Passion): your membership program is important
Paying only makes sense if I only get access to something that means a lot to me. Content can mean something special to me for all kinds of very different reasons. It can be political values; an attitude; an idea; a personality; local patriotism; or enthusiasm for a sports team. But it has to matter.
For example, the Washington Post gave itself the slogan Democracy dies in Darkness two years ago. The sentence suggests: Become a member if you want to gather behind this message. If you care about democracy in the Trump era, do something about it. Since then, the growth of digital members has been steep.
However, not every small medium has to save the world. But only if a medium is important to someone personally, they would pay for it. That's why subscription alone is no longer enough. Ever more creators – particularly in the US – speak of membership. ￼The difference between subscription, ads, donations and membership. Read more about the membership economy here.
Membership does not mean: Pay, although you get nothing. That is the model of the Guardian or the taz, which do without Paywalls and offer paying members also otherwise not much, except the good feeling to support something important. It is now clear that this model doesn't work well. Too few users are willing to pay. Membership means instead: I do the right thing and get an exclusive return service. This sounds like a negligible difference, but is actually a paradigm shift – some even call it a revolution.
3. Participation: membership creates a personal connection
This revolution is changing not only the product (access) and the business model of the media (membership), but above all the relationship between users and publicists. A personal relationship between the medium and the audience requires trust, and trust only comes about through communication at eye level. Only those who allow digital proximity build trust.
As a paying member, I see myself as part of a community of like-minded people. I expect open and personal communication, great transparency, a friendly language. Many media have to change if they want to earn money with memberships.
So if you want to offer a successful membership offer, these three elements are important: your members should get something exclusive (privileges), they should understand why your publication is important (passion), and they should have the opportunity to share with you at eye level (participation).
What should I avoid?
Don't talk about subscriptions or donations: A membership is not a subscription, even if both are regular payments. Membership models work on the basis of the personality of the makers. The audience supports their media makers because they identify with them and their work. This is not the case with the old newspaper subscription. But offering membership is also not a call for donations. Members usually receive a (hopefully valuable) return service. This could be exclusive content, regular video chats with the makers or something completely different.
Don't go into too much detail: Most of the visitors of your Steady page already know you and your work.