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

Five on Friday: Subscription Offer Codes, Audio Ads and Instagram Upgrades

Featuring Google Chrome, Gumroad, Apple, YouTube and Instagram

In this week’s Five on Friday, Google is trying to protect users from insecure, mixed-content downloads in Chrome, Gumroad launches monthly memberships, and developers can now use subscription offer codes for Apple apps. Also, YouTube launches audio ads to raise brand awareness and increase reach to background listeners, and Facebook-owned Instagram expands its new Guides feature to all users and it upgrades the platform’s Search functionality.

Google Chrome to Block Mixed Content Downloads in January

Last week, Salesforce notified users that Google will begin rolling out changes to the Google Chrome browser that will block mixed content downloads. Salesforce said Google is making the change to improve user privacy and security. Starting in January 2021, Google will start blocking HTTP file downloads (e.g., images, videos, documents, PDFs) from an HTTPS site by default.

For example, if a user visits an HTTPS site but the site includes image or video downloads hosted from a non-secure HTTP link, the content will show a broken image. A similar problem will occur if a link on an HTTPS site links to a non-secure HTTP or FTP site. If that happens, the link will be broken.

Salesforce offered several possible solutions or workarounds:

  1. Choose not to upgrade to Google Chrome.
  2. Use a previous version of Google Chrome.
  3. Use an alternate browser that allows mixed content.
  4. Enable mixed content in Chrome by clicking on the padlock in the URL bar, choose Site Settings and locate the Insecure Content dropdown. Change the default from Block to Allow.
Sample warning from Google Chrome.

Salesforce users can learn more directly from the company on their blog or from Google who originally announced changes to Chrome on its Chromium blog in February. Starting this month with the release of Chrome 87, chrome will warn users of mixed content downloads of images, audio, video and text. In Chrome 88, to be released in January, Chrome will block all mixed content downloads.

Creators Can Now Earn Recurring Revenue with Gumroad Memberships

Since the digital sales platform’s launch in 2011, nearly 75,000 independent creators on Gumroad have made more than $364 million. Last week alone, 9,860 creators from 133 different countries were paid $3.46 million. However, most of those sales were one-off purchases. Gumroad wanted to create a more sustainable platform for their creators (e.g., writers, artists, filmmakers, software developers, etc.), so last week, the company introduced memberships giving creators tools to develop paid communities, courses, software, newsletters and more.

“Recurring revenue is powerful fuel for your business. Nothing beats the rush of excitement that comes from a successful launch day, but knowing when your biggest fans will pay you next adds stability and predictability to your income. With this in mind, we’ve spent the past year building features that bring eight years of experience selling single products to offering Memberships. We also handle taxes, chargebacks, compliance, and fraud for Memberships in the exact same way we do for other products,” said Gumroad in their announcement.

The new memberships offer customizable tiers, so creators can set different prices, offer different content, and use different workflows for each tier. The tiers also allow fans to choose their preferred way to support a creator’s work. The tier features include pay-what-you-want pricing and purchase-specific posts.

Gumroad encourages creators to start with a free Gumroad account to create a landing page, an email list, and memberships and products. Once they are ready to launch, they can switch to a paid plan to get lower fees for payment processing and additional features like unlimited posts and HD video streaming.

According to Gumroad, creators use their platform for one-off products while Patreon allows for subscriptions as well. Now offering memberships, Gumroad can better compete with Patreon and other creator platforms. For more information about the future of Gumroad, and what features they are working out next, check out Gumroad’s online roadmap.

Creators can now earn recurring revenue with Gumroad Memberships.
Creators can now earn recurring revenue with Gumroad Memberships. Image courtesy of Gumroad.

Developers Can Create Subscription Offer Codes for Use on Apple Devices

Last week, Apple announced that developers can now create subscription offer codes to attract and retain subscribers. The subscription offer offer codes are unique, alphanumeric codes that provide auto-renewable subscriptions at a discounted price or for free for a specified period of time. One-time offer codes can be provided to subscribers digitally or offline at events, with product purchases, and more. There are three pricing options for subscription offers:

Introductory subscription offer sample.
A sample subscription offer code. Image courtesy of Apple
  • Free: Subscribers can access their subscriptions for free for a specific time period. The subscription starts right away, and subscribers are billed after the offer expires. This offer is ideal for people who want to try before they buy.
  • Pay as you go: Subscribers pay a set price initially and a higher price after the initial period is over. For example, a magazine publisher may offer their digital magazine subscription for $1.99 a month for the first three months, and $2.99 a month thereafter. This works well with price-sensitive users who like the appeal of a recurring discount.
  • Pay up front: Subscriber pays a one-time fee for a specified period of time, followed by a standard renewal price. For example, gamers might sign up for a digital game for $15 for the first six months, and at $45 per year thereafter. This particular offer gives users the opportunity to enjoy an extended experience before subscription renewal.

Apple spells out the differences between introductory offers, promotional offers and offer codes and when each is ideally used. They share recommendations including primary use, customer eligibility, distribution and redemption, redemption limits, offer configurations and compatibility.

YouTube to Launch 15-Second Audio Ads to Reach Background Listeners

If you listen to YouTube music in the background, be prepared for 15-second audio ad interruptions. YouTube has been testing audio ads to reach those who listen to music in the background. In place of a video, the ad will feature a still image or simple animation while the audio ad plays. This new ad type will give prospective advertisers additional options for promoting brands on YouTube, while also boosting YouTube revenue and facing off against competitors like Spotify.

“Music has always played an important role in culture and everyday lives. It’s a reliable way for you to capture an audience engaging with content they love, but for most brands, it’s untapped on YouTube. With music video streaming at an all-time high on YouTube—more than 50 percent of logged-in viewers who consume music content in a day consume more than 10 minutes of music content—we’re introducing new solutions for your brand to be seen, heard and recognized alongside music content,” said Melissa Hsieh Nikolic, group product manager for YouTube Ads, in a November 17 blog post.

YouTube is also launching “dynamic music lineups” that categories music based on popular genres, moods and interests, such as Latin music, K-pop, hip-hop and top 100.

“You can easily reach music fans globally and drive results for your business. Music lineups and audio ads make it possible to be there, at scale, whether YouTube is being watched front and center or playing as the backdrop to daily life,” Hsieh Nikolic added.

According to YouTube, tests of the new audio ad format have been successful, expanding reach and driving brand awareness. For example, from June 2019 to March 2020, YouTube determined that 75% of audio ad campaigns drove a significant increase in brand awareness. Shutterfly, who served as an early tester, saw a 14% increase in ad recall and a 2% increase in favorability with their target audience.

In an article for Variety, Lyor Cohen, global head of music for YouTube, said they are trying to help artists earn more revenue from ads.

“Subscription revenue is important, and now [music companies] understand the advertising opportunity. They love that we’re building muscle on both sides,” Cohen said.

Learn more about the new audio ads and the dynamic music lineups on Google’s product blog.

Instagram Expands Guides and Upgrades Search

Last week, Facebook-owned Instagram announced that the social media platform is expanding Guides to make it easier for users to find, curate and share posts from other Instagram accounts. Initially introduced in May to help provide useful, longer-form content during the pandemic, the Guides feature has been popular – according to Instagram – so they are expanding its use to all users and making them easier to create. To locate Guides in Instagram, go to an account’s profile and tap on the middle icon to view the account’s Guide. Some Guides may also be featured in Instagram Shop, another new feature on the social media platform, or be available through the Explore tab.

Also last week, Instagram announced an update to their Search functionality. In addition to being able to search by name, username, hashtag or location, Instagram users can now search using keywords. The update is available to users in the U.S., U.K., Australia, New Zealand and Ireland so far, reports TechCrunch.

Instagram has expanded the Guides feature to all users. They are also rolling out an upgraded Search function. Image courtesy of Instagram.
Instagram has expanded its Guides features to all users, and they are in the process of upgrading Search functionality. Image courtesy of Instagram.

The Subscription Insider family hopes you and your family have a happy and safe Thanksgiving weekend!

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