Third-party subscription service offers revenue option for publishers

By Thibaud de La Villarmois

Paris, Ile de France, France


Many publishers are looking for a direct revenue stream from their readers through memberships, with successful platforms such as Netflix and Spotify as models. 

Multipass is the first multi-site subscription service for premium content on a package of Web sites, with more than 100 publisher-partners. For US$9.90 per month, visitors can surf all partner Web sites without ads, subscriptions, or restrictions.

Multipass got its start in 2013 under the name of SQweb when adblocking was on the rise. We realised fighting back with more ads was neither right nor sustainable. We wanted to create a friendly monetisation alternative. SQweb was what Patreon or Flattr is today — pay what you want to surf without ads on partner Web sites.

Multiplass allows users to surf partner Web sites ad-free with a subscription.
Multiplass allows users to surf partner Web sites ad-free with a subscription.

Multipass was born our of our realisation that users wanted one subscription that would access everything. We decided to enhance our product with a new feature: access to restricted content. 

With this new positioning we faced three challenges.

1. Keeping our Multipass plugin free and easy to use.

Multipass is free and easy to install, with plugins and software development kits (SDKs) for major content management systems, such as WordPress and Drupal. The majority of our partners did not need to allocate specific technical resources, and those with moderate technical proficiency usually manage to set up Multipass in a few hours.

The plugin is also simple to explain to visitors. Button-based registration and login happen without leaving the Web site, and it works on PCs, tablets, and mobile without any user installation. There is no friction for users.

For publishers, the Multipass plugin automatically handles the display of advertising and premium content, and our dashboard shows key metrics, with a focus on conversion and revenue.

2. Working with different kind of publishers.

We needed to mutualise a subscription platform between publishers whose premium versions have different added values. To do this we offer several versions.

  • Ad-free version: When advertisements are used to monetise digital media, Multipass enables users to bypass them. Publishers can specifically target adblockers, and convert users into paying customers.
  • Restricted content version: Publishers can manage premium content to transform readers into subscribers, using features similar to high-end subscriptions systems including metered model, expiration date, and partial display.
  • “Support Us” version: Some journalists want to keep their posts accessible to everyone, and ask audiences to support them with donations.

Multipass offers a partnering solution for all kinds of publishing platforms and also helps with content discovery. To do so, we promote partners’ content through “social media teasing,” and reach our younger audience through videos on our social channels.

Multiplass has more than 100 publisher partners.
Multiplass has more than 100 publisher partners.

3. Finding a fair revenue share between publishers.

We needed to create fair rules to share user subscriptions. With the support of INMA members, we gathered feedback from similar projects that failed before us, and explored the expectations of thousands of publishers. We culled information about different sizes, different publishing styles, and different business models (content Web sites, digital media, journalists, and expert blogs). And agreed that our calculations of revenue share were feasible and innovative.

We designed revenue distribution to be fair for everyone — local news media, national news media, and both big and small publishers. Multipass is free and does not require publisher engagement. We keep 20% of user subscriptions, and give publishers 80%. The first 10% of this goes to the publisher who recruited the user, and the remaining 70% is shared between publishers, based on the distribution of the user’s online time.

Multipass shares user subscription revenue with publishers based partly on time spent by the reader.
Multipass shares user subscription revenue with publishers based partly on time spent by the reader.

For example, a publisher’s Web site attains a pool of 3,000 subscribers from their site after six months. Their revenue share would be US$2,970 (3,000 x 10% x US$9.90). If the following month, 1,000 subscribers from the publisher’s pool used the service, their revenue from that would be US$6,930 (1,000 x 70% x US$9.90). The Multiplass revenue from all of this would be US$10,950.

About Thibaud de La Villarmois

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