The Reasons Why People Subscribe To Content

At Online Marketing blog, I explained why subscribers are a vital element of your site’s growth strategy.  The reasons listed in that post include:

  • The ~11% of web users who know to use RSS include the users savvy enough to be web publishers
  • You’ll become a go-to area to link to
  • Subscribers are your “sneezers”
  • A base of well-connected fans could very well be the cornerstone of your social marketing strategy
  • Community is what makes sites worth visiting
  • Subscribers will motivate you to create better content
  • A consolidated network presence is the most effective
  • Subscribers and a fan base make you less reliant on push PR

It’s a topic I’m interested in not only because I’m a subscriber (aka a community member) to more than 500 blogs and an internet marketer who helps companies/clients build a following, but I’ve personally attracted a vibrant community of savvy marketers, web professionals and artists to this blog without using any sort of push mechanism.

If you’re one of the first 100 or so subscribers here, you were a catalyst for the rest whether you were conscious of it or not.  And a percentage of those of you who are subscribed to this blog right now are actually responsible for any post gaining visibility outside of The Future Buzz community:  you’re the ones who share this content with others (thanks, by the way).

The same is true for anyone’s web presence.  It is inescapable that a community is necessary for you to grow month over month in a sustainable fashion.  Web properties built to attract and hold a community thrive, because search engines and social media are both designed to send traffic to democratically chosen locations.  And a true opt-in community will have an affinity for seeing your content spread, and in effect choose you.

Readers here are already aware of the reasons why organizations (and individuals) with audiences win.  So by now, you’re wondering why exactly do people subscribe to content?  Today, I’m going to share my subjective insights:

Not about quantity, but quality

Maki who keeps the popular blog Dosh Dosh hasn’t published a new post since May 18, 2009.  Yet since that time he’s acquired around 10,000 new subscribers.  This proves if your content is that good people will subscribe to hear what’s next regardless of frequency.  Yes, frequency can help you grow rapidly, especially at the start – however frequency by itself is not a reason people subscribe to content.

A strong digital reputation

If you have a strong digital reputation, you’re naturally going to get endorsements from other influential people within your niche.  And continued endorsements from the right people are going to result in others wanting to opt into your content and not miss a thing.

Enough people read it that your brand becomes a draw in and of itself

Sites like TechCrunch just get more popular because the rest of the world reads them.  By not reading them you’re missing out on what the rest of the industry is reading, in effect falling behind.  You may not be able to leverage the numbers TechCrunch has for your own content, but you don’t need to.  If you can just show that enough people within your niche are reading/endorsing your content (the idea of social proofing) it will be clear to others that there is more to lose by missing your content than by subscribing to it.

Voice and personality that differentiates your content

If you sound like everyone else, why does anyone need you in their RSS reader or email inbox?  They don’t, you’re easily skip-able.  Don’t hold back and overly refine your content, find your voice and let it shine through.  Be yourself and don’t let your content become the product of design by committee – that in fact will strip away all the character and personality behind your ideas and  readers will mentally file you as another “me-too”.  It’s difficult because so many have been trained to be perfect for so long, but we secretly don’t desire perfection.  In fact, it is the imperfections in our writing and the quirks in our personalities that make content interesting.  Embrace imperfection.

Your ideas resonate with others like yourself

If the ideas you are writing click with readers, those readers are going to have affinity for your thoughts and want to hear more.  We connect with like-minded people, and web content in any form is merely an extension of ourselves.  If your material isn’t resonating with the niche, then you’ll never acquire subscribers and you won’t earn permission to share content with an audience interested in seeing you grow.

A personal friend recommended you

This is a powerful but overlooked reason why people opt-in to content.  Yes, it’s nice to make page one of Digg or get thousands or ReTweets (these things can help you gain subscribers too, of course).  But sometimes the right few people who go out of their way to personally recommend you to others will ultimately build the most powerful community.  And when you stop and consider the real value of your network, you’ll realize it’s not about how many, but who.

You’re just plain interesting

This goes along with the points listed above, except that it’s more basic:  that you’re interesting and doing something remarkable.  Besides being different and having ideas that resonate, if you’re undeniably interesting people are going to want to come back for more.  This is so simple, yet so often missed.  Learn the art of entertaining while educating, make a notoriously dry subject compelling, keep your ideas fresh, or in some way stand out and you’ll find success.


Opt-in rewards and promotions to entice people to subscribe might work a little but they all only help arithmetically and are not true ways to forge an organic opt-in list of those with affinity for your content.  And I’d rather have an engaged community that made the choice to join without any incentive than one who subscribed just to get a reward.

image credit: Norebbo via Shutterstock