When subscriptions go bad – and how to prevent it

  • March 13th, 2017

Picture the scene: you run a research firm that emails PDFs to clients, even though this is fraught with opportunities for your report content to be used outside the agreed licence and doesn’t enable you to gather any feedback beyond registering to whom the report was originally sent.

You know your firm needs to move towards a subscription model where a technical solution is put in place to deliver content to clients – but even that is not without peril.

So, when weighing up introduction of a subscription technology, what possible future issues should it be able to mitigate?

Retained access

By far the biggest headache for publishers using a less advanced subscription system is around individuals leaving one job, but retaining access to a publisher’s content. This can endanger IP and damages revenues.

How does a publisher lessen the impact of this kind of behaviour?

Email and ID security

Smart subscription software can limit the impact of unlawful access by only accepting log-ins from company email addresses and insisting on a two-factor identification.

When an individual leaves one role, it’s highly likely they’ll be shut out of their old email account; therefore, when the time comes for them to update their log-in details, they won’t be able to access the automated email asking that prompts this change, and their old log-in will become obsolete.

What’s more, two-stage verification of this kind discourages subscribers from sharing log-ins widely with friends and colleagues, as the need to regularly re-verify becomes burdensome.

Mass downloading

The other nightmare scenario is that a subscriber downloads your entire portfolio and then fails to renew their subscription.

There are several ways a smart publishing system can help to alleviate this problem. The first is around access rights; if a subscription simply buys a client unrestricted access to a publisher’s entire portfolio (so-called ‘all-you-can-eat subscriptions’) there is little in the way to discourage this kind of behaviour.

A smart system isn’t going to provide all-you-can-eat access to more than a handful of ‘power’ subscribers. It’s therefore unlikely that the opportunity will exist for a single person to download every piece of content. It’s also a significant deterrent that any information taken in a mass download would have repeated and regular use of the individual account user’s personal details across every piece of content.

An even more significant deterrent to mass downloading is management of the content. Any individual with access to an entire portfolio would also have access to the inbuilt workflow tools needed to search, edit, adapt, and make sense of all that information. A mass downloaded would also mean abandoning this suite of tools. Making sense of such a huge volume of content without these tools would be thankless, unrewarding, and an almost impossibly time-consuming task.

Customer behaviour, renewals, and engagement

Of course, using a smart publishing system can help mitigate a lot of the difficulty around mass downloads as the content usage of individual account holders is monitored in real time. Unusual behaviour can trigger alerts enabling the publisher to intervene.

Related difficulties around managing grace periods, blocking individual access, and dealing with expired subscriptions can also be dealt with through a system that feeds back rich account information to the publisher.

With a system that flags an individual’s poor or limited use of content, non-engagement, and upcoming renewals, the risk of non-renewal can be managed out of the client base through good quality customer service.

Individuals who aren’t making the most of their subscription can be given help by the publisher to maximise its value; this could be as simple as providing tutorials around use of workflow tools, or offers of content that’s more appropriate to their needs.

Whatever the issue for the customer, good quality behavioural information and a system of alerts can help the publisher enact a solution before the situation turns critical and a valuable source of revenue is lost.

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