illustration of the number five, representing the five subscription business topics for this column, Five-on-Friday

Five on Friday: Digital Growth, Doubling Value and Driving Traffic

Featuring Apple, TIME, ESPN+, Vice and U.S. Post Office

In this week’s Five on Friday, Apple is now valued at $2 trillion, doubling its value in just two years; TIME reports strong digital revenue growth in the second quarter; and ESPN+ increases its price by $1 a month and drops the free trial, but plans to add content to its program line-up. Also this week, Vice’s Motherboard launches a subscription newsletter – complete with a mailed hard copy – to report on and support the U.S. Post Office, and Shopify shares five top tips for driving traffic to your subscription website.

Apple Valued at $2 Trillion, Doubling Its Value in Just Two Years

In the middle of a global pandemic, Apple hit the $2 trillion valuation level. Yes, that’s trillion with a T. They are the first U.S. company to do so, according to The New York Times. This is double their $1 trillion valuation in 2018. On August 19, the company’s stock was valued at $468.65 per share. As of 4:45 p.m. EDT yesterday, that price had increased to $473.10 per share.

Jack Nicas for The Times said the increase from $1 trillion to $2 trillion in two years is a bit surprising, because Apple has not made any dramatic moves in that time. The tech giant has come out with some upgraded products like Apple Watches and new generations of iPhones, but where they are making strides is in their services, particularly subscription services.

As we reported on August 3, Apple had total revenue of $59.7 billion, an 11% increase year-over-year, in its third quarter of fiscal year 2020. Of that total, $46.5 billion was products revenue, a 9.8% increase, and $13.2 billion was services revenue, a 14.8% increase. Services revenue includes the company’s subscription products including Apple Music, Apple News+, Apple TV+, cloud services and Apple Arcade.

As of June 27, 2020, services revenue accounted for 22% of Apple’s total revenue, compared to 21.3% for the same period last year. For the first nine months of fiscal year 2020, services revenue was 18.7%, compared to 17.2% for the first nine months of fiscal year 2019. While those differences seem small, with Apple’s new Apple One subscription bundles just around the corner, the tech behemoth could see an increase in subscription revenue and customer retention between now and their fiscal year end. Despite COVID-19 and related operational changes, the company is still sitting pretty.

Source: Google

TIME Reports Strong Digital Revenue Growth in Q2 and Reveals Plans for Q3

In an August 17 letter to TIME staff, president Keith A. Grossman outlined key milestones the publisher achieved during the second quarter, including significant digital growth. Here are highlights from his report:

  • Digital revenue grew 58% year-over-year, exceeding print revenue for the first time in company history.
  • Print subscriptions in the U.S. exceeded expectations by 6%.
  • Due to stronger relationships with their readers, they have achieved “direct, opted-in relationships” with more than 1.2 million individuals. He did not specify what types of relationships these were (e.g., subscriptions, newsletter sign-ups, monthly unique visitors, etc.).
  • TIME launched a number of new products including TIME100 Talks, TIME for Health, TIME for Health Talks, TIME for Kids, TIME for Learning and NextAdvisor.

Pleased with the company’s accomplishments but not content to stop, Grossman outlined four major goals for the third quarter: (1) establishing multiple recurring revenue streams; (2) evolving TIME’s video and streaming strategy; (3) increasing the size of B2B deals; and (4) continuing the company’s digital transformation and launching a B2C app for readers.

To date, the company’s recurring revenue has come from TIME Magazine and the TIME for Kids’ magazine. They are now testing a TIME for Kids’ digital subscription. By year end, the president’s goal is to at least double the number of recurring revenue streams – not subscribers, but STREAMS. That’s ambitious, but the company is on a roll.

“Over the past month, we have assessed not only what we need to be doing to evolve, but also what we need to stop doing at a team and organizational level. I am confident we can do this,” said Grossman. “Thank you again for all of your hard work and hope you are proud of the path we continue to forge here at TIME.”

Image courtesy of Time

ESPN+ Increases Price by $1 a Month, Drops the Free Trial and Adds New Content

Under the Disney umbrella, ESPN+ has dropped its free trial and increased its price by $1 a month to $5.99 a month, or $49.99 a year. It can also be purchased as part of an ESPN+, Disney+ and Hulu bundle for $12.99 a month. The changes are likely part of Disney’s shifting streaming strategy, doing away with free trials, knowing they offer unique content that people are willing to pay for without a free trial. (Editor’s note: In its FAQs, ESPN+ indicates that subscribers under the $4.99 a month plan will retain their current pricing.)

But the changes bring along some extra perks for ESPN+ fans. The streaming app will add a new slate of shows in August and September including exclusive on-demand programming. New programming includes the following:

  • Bettor Days with Mike Greenberg
  • Roll the Tape
  • Our Time: Oklahoma State
  • Detail
  • The Fantasy Show with Matthew Berry
  • Quest for the Stanley Cup

“Our new programming slate features a bit of everything, from sports legends to ESPN’s popular storytellers and diverse, fun personalities,” said Russell Wolff, executive vice president and general manager, ESPN+, in the announcement. “On ESPN+, we’re developing unique programming that captures the joy of sports, shares stories that fans want, and gives them access to the people, places and perspectives shaping the games and sports they love – all with the aim of entertaining viewers while making them smarter.”

ESPN+ has increased its pricing by $1 a month, dropped the free trial and added new content. Image courtesy of ESPN+.

Vice’s Motherboard Launches a Newsletter to Write About and Support the Post Office

Concerned about the validity and integrity of the 2020 presidential election, Vice’s Motherboard brand is going “all in” to cover the United States Postal Service (USPS) and shine a light on the perils the organization has endured for decades. Written by Motherboard senior staff writer Aaron Gordon, The Mail will be a free email newsletter that will spotlight the USPS and its role in the upcoming election. For $8 a month or $30 a year, paying subscribers will also receive a print newsletter and access to exclusive, subscriber-only posts.

“The zines will be put together by the entire Motherboard staff and will focus on digital security, hacking, internet ephemera, labor and will generally be intended to inform and delight,” said Gordon in the announcement.

Gordon said this isn’t just about the post office but about America and how the post office has been undermined for decades by both political parties.

“So there has never been a better time for Americans not only to defend and unite around the post office, but to decide what kind of post office, and what kind of country, we want to have,” Gordon wrote. “It’s time to talk about the Post Office because it is the thing that binds us together, both metaphorically in terms of its mission—to deliver every piece of mail every day to every American, a mission under attack by the new postmaster general—and because it is one of the few things, if the polls are to be believed, Americans overwhelmingly approve of.”

Read more about Gordon and Motherboard’s intent with The Mail at

Five Tips to Drive Traffic to Your Website Today

Whether your subscription company is the new kid on the block or has been around for a while, you need to drive traffic to your website. There are countless ways to do that, of course, and Shopify has summarized best practices in an excellent “how to” article. Here are five easy, affordable ways to get visitors to your website.

  1. Run a paid social media campaign using the platform(s) that best suit(s) your brand (e.g., Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.).
  2. Engage with prospective customers and followers on Twitter. Retweet their content, comment on their posts, and actively follow others to grow your base.
  3. Offer time sensitive promotional deals.
  4. Write blog posts that talk about your products or services and how they can help prospective customers (e.g., Five Ways Our Monthly Meal Box Can Give You More Time with Your Family), and share those posts on social.
  5. Leverage the popularity of videos to educate or entertain your prospective customers, so that their interest is peaked enough to visit your website to learn more.

Read the full article – “Need Traffic? Here’s How to Get Visitors to a New Website (Even If You Don’t Know Where to Begin)” by Adam Rogers – on, complete with how to decide which tools are the best for your business.

Image courtesy of Bigstock Photo

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