Only when the tide goes out…

TTG Media has recently switched to a membership model. Here’s some advice for others considering a similar move.

By James Evelegh

Only when the tide goes out…
Photograph: Eduardo Gutierre on Unsplash.

… do you discover who’s been swimming naked.

That memorable quote, with its hard to shake mental picture, is courtesy of Warren Buffett, and also Daniel Pearce in our latest podcast.

The metaphorical tide in this instance is advertising revenue, which for many years has kept magazine titles, of all shapes and sizes, afloat and, to an extent, masked the deficiencies of some.

But when the advertising tide starts to ebb away, what are you left with? In some cases, not a lot.

To avoid that unedifying prospect, TTG Media has been steadily reducing its reliance on advertising and, last autumn, launched a membership offering – TTG+, something that had been in the pipeline for a while but which like so many other things was brought forward by Covid.

Transitioning from a totally free to a membership business was done because “too many of our revenues were inconsistent – we need recurring revenues”.

For other publishers considering a similar switch, Daniel had some sensible advice:

  1. Talk to your market (and not just your passionate supporters) to gauge their likely reaction.
  2. Learn from other publishers. Lots have gone down this road already. Study them.
  3. Add value to your offering to justify charging.
  4. Work out how much content you will put behind a paywall and how much you will leave free – and don’t be too timid.
  5. Invest in tech. The smooth operation of a paywall and membership proposition needs your tech to be up to scratch.
  6. Be prepared to play the long game. This does not happen overnight.

It’s been a big switch, says Daniel, but very rewarding and he has been struck by how everyone’s mindset, across the business, has changed since becoming a subs title.

“Our content does have value,” he said, and their growing recurring revenues should ensure that no one at TTG is left exposed at low tide.