Ars Technica, a popular digital publication for IT experts and enthusiasts, is celebrating its 20th year in 2018, and it is hoping to leverage its popularity with new subscription tiers. Though owned by Conde Nast, Ars Technica is an independent media site, and they are making the changes to bring in more revenue. The site started their first subscription program in 2001, but they want to improve operations, grow staff and be selective about the ads they choose to run.
‘Today, we are asking you to consider supporting Ars Technica by becoming a subscriber. We’ve made some changes to the program in 2018, including lowering our prices and adding more goodies,’ said Ken Fisher, founder and editor-in chief of Ars Technica in a post about the changes. ‘Without our existing subscribers supporting us for the past several years, we would never have the confidence to continue this program. Indeed, we are eternally grateful to those of you who have supported us in this way.’
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There are three tiers in Ars Technica’s revamped subscription program:
- Free: This tier is ad-supported, but still allows full access to all content.
- Ars Pro: For $25 a year, or $3 a month, readers get an ad-free experience, full access to content, and full-text RSS feeds, access to subscriber-only forums.
- Ars Pro++: For $50 a year, readers get all the perks of an Ars Pro subscription plus the ability to read in ‘clean reading mode,’ and a free yearly gift.
In its pitch to potential subscribers, Fisher said if just 1 percent of people blocking ads on Ars Technica would subscribe to the Ars Pro level, they would be able to hire five more journalists.
For Ars Pro++ subscribers, this year’s free gift is a branded YubiKey 4, a $40 value. YubiKey, which works with macOS, Linux, Windows and ChromeOs, is a small piece of hardware you plug into your computer’s USB port; it provides two-factor authentication codes (2FA) when you use services like Facebook, Gmail, Dropbox or GitHub. While the subscription tiers are available now, YubiKeys will begin in mid to late February. Subscribers should receive their YubiKeys no later than three-and-a-half weeks after fulfillment starts.
Previously, monthly subscribers paid $5 a month, but their subscription fees have been lowered to $3 a month. Annual subscribers who previously paid $50 a month will be moved to the Ars Pro++ tier.
In his article, Fisher answers the question, ‘why would I pay for something I get for free?’
‘We believe that Ars Technica is a tremendous value to its readers, and we believe that a number of you are willing to recognize that value in the form of a subscription. There are several reasons we believe this. First, we have the highest return-reader rate in the business; the average Ars reader hits the site multiple times a day, for 90 visits a month on average. Second, a massive percentage of our readership has been with us for five or more years. Third, and most important, throughout 20 years, we have been blessed with readers who engage with us in the comments, in emails, and elsewhere. Putting this all together, we firmly believe that Ars Technica offers a value that, for many of you, is worth supporting with a few dollars,’ Fisher explained.
Considering Ars Technica has 15 million monthly readers, it’s pretty clear they know their audience and what type of content they want. It’s a safe bet they’ll get additional subscribers from the new, lowered-priced tiers, particularly for readers who crave an ad-free experience. Because the site is utilizing a freemium model, giving free readers full access to content through its ad-supported tier, it is unlikely Ars Technica will lose anyone, so these subscription program enhancements are low to no risk.