Last week, digital subscription reading subscription service Scribd hit a big milestone – it surpassed more than 1 million members from around the world. The service first launched in 2007 as an open publishing platform where users could upload documents and share other online content with other users. In 2013, Scribd developed an eBook digital reading subscription service where readers had unlimited access to content.
The model has evolved over time as Scribd experimented with different subscription models and content offerings, adding magazines (November 2016) and newspapers (May 2017), reducing its catalog of romance titles (July 2015) and removing comics (January 2017).
In 2018, Scribd returned to its original premise – unlimited reading for a flat monthly fee. Under the latest model, Scribd offers unlimited digital books including best sellers, audiobooks, news, magazines, articles, documents and sheet music for $8.99 a month, following a 30-day free trial. The catch is that “restrictions on some titles may apply.”
Scribd explains the restrictions in its FAQs: “We strive to provide the most comprehensive catalog to all of our members. We can’t guarantee the immediate availability of any specific title, but our members can always read an unlimited number of books and audiobooks each month. Occasionally, we have to limit the titles that you’re able to access within a specific content library in a 30-day period.”
“This is an exciting milestone for Scribd; 1 million subscribers is a tipping point for any subscription company and proves we have a reading service that people want, need and love,” said Trip Adler, co-founder and CEO, in a January 27 blog post.
“Scribd has been at the forefront of the digital reading evolution over the last decade, driving incremental revenue to the publishing industry while making the written word more accessible than ever before. As we celebrate this milestone, we’re grateful to our partners for trusting us with their content and believing in our mission to change the way the world reads,” Adler added.
According to the blog post, Scribd wants a subscription model that strikes a balance between providing good value to members and publishing partners while also giving the company long-term financial sustainability. The company believes it is at that point now, which is why Scribd returned to the unlimited model last year. They say they’ve grown subscriptions 40 percent in the last year and they’ve seen a 100 percent increase in audio users in 2018.
The addition of new members can also be attributed to new partnerships that Scribd has with publishers including The New York Times and the Waze app, helping members to discover new content. With The New York Times bundle, readers get a Scribd membership which includes unlimited digital access to The Times, its archives and the entire catalog of Scribd content.
“As we look ahead to the next chapter, we’re excited to keep working with partners to deliver the best of the written word,” says the post. “Whether you’ve been with Scribd since the beginning or just recently signed up, thank you for joining us on this journey and for being part of the Scribd community.”
We tend to be skeptical about subscription companies that are continually shifting their business model, but in the last few years, Scribd seems to have identified what works for them and what doesn’t. The company seems to be regularly adding value for its members, while also providing financial sustainability and strong partnerships for itself. Hitting the 1 million milestone – 12 years after its launch – was a long time in coming, but it signals that Scribd must be doing something right.