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Memberships vs. subscriptions – what’s the difference?

At first glance memberships and subscriptions can look quite similar. So what’s the difference?

Subscribers pay a defined, regular amount in exchange for a certain product (eg. 12 issues of a magazine).

Memberships, on the other hand, are not simply transactional. They are about upholding the relationship between a creator and its community. They enable people who value an independent project to give money, as well as their time, expertise and ideas to support that project.

People become members in order to support or show appreciation for a project (Opens in a new window) and help keep it running or even improve its content. They are motivated by their wish to support a creator they admire, because they see their interests or values aligning with them and feel an affiliation with their project.

Concrete benefits for members

Some creators choose to offer benefits (Opens in a new window) like exclusive content or a behind-the-scenes peek as a “thank you” to their members. These benefits may be viewed as an additional incentive for people to become members, or as simply a nice way to show appreciation.

Members become part of a community

One major benefit of becoming a member is that you join a community. As a newspaper subscriber, you probably don’t know your fellow subscribers. But many membership-funded projects host members-only discussion forums online, private Facebook groups and even face-to-face meetings for members. 

The membership model works best when creators keep in touch with their members, who may even make story suggestions or be invited to have their say on the future direction of the project.

In our experience, memberships can also work perfectly well even without benefits: many members sign up not because of concrete “rewards”, but because they believe in a creator and want to see them thrive. Members are paying to ensure the longevity of their favorite projects.

As a creator, memberships offer an income you can count on, which means less stress about trying to pay your bills and more time for creativity, along with a loyal, committed community ready to celebrate your work.

Rather than producing clickbaity content designed to meet the demands of someone else’s algorithm (Opens in a new window), memberships allow creators a chance at creative independence, which in turn benefits the members who enjoy more nuanced, considered content.

Check out some of the 1700+ projects already earning a sustainable income on Steady (Opens in a new window) or create your own project on Steady:

Topic Why Memberships?