Publishers are drawn to membership programs because they can bring recurring revenue to balance out their dependence on advertising and cultivate more loyalty than a straight paywall. But as publishers are finding, it’s hard to figure out what will make people subscribe — and renew.

It’s made all the more difficult by the fact that publishers’ membership programs, by design, have multiple benefits to lure people in. Articles are often the main draw, but drill down, and not all articles are of equal importance to all readers. Health information publisher Stat has members of its 2-year-old, $300-a-year Stat Plus program from law, biotech and government, for example, each with their own interests and information needs. Memberships also often include other benefits like member-only events, conference calls with journalists and newsletters. To keep growing pricey memberships, publishers have to know the relative value of all those benefits.

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