3. Download-to-Own and Partnership Model: The Most successful Subscription Models for Media Websites


This article is the third of a series in which we look into the different subscription models for media sites. In this edition, we breakdown the pros and cons of Download to Own and Partnership models. In the two previous installments, we detailed the specifics of the Hard Paywall subscription model, as well as the Soft Paywall and Freemium subscription models.


Want to learn more about alternative revenue streams for websites? Make sure to check out our article on Selling Products as one of the Four Best Alternative Revenue Streams for Media Sites and discover more ways of monetizing your audiences.


As the name suggests, it offers consumers the opportunity of downloading and owning a certain product by paying a fee. This service was first created to meet the ever growing needs of movie watchers. Instead of carrying around a DVD port everywhere, users were offered the chance to download movies to store on their digital devices.

The main advantage of the Download-to-Own subscription, for the companies using this model, is that items don’t need to be constantly available for use. For instance, users will head to your site to download a movie and watch it offline, instead of streaming videos directly on your platform, along with a number of other users. The lack of heavy traffic and usage results in significantly lower costs when compared to other subscriptions. The model has its drawbacks though. It limits your access to your users data, which may impede on your ability to easily customise your services in the long run. Consumers may also have a problem downloading your material if their internet connection isn’t strong enough.

One of the most famous companies with the Download-to-Own model is the iTunes Store,s a software-based online digital media store. iTunes launched in 2003 as an online music vendor. Apart from the streaming service, iTunes offers users the chance to download music from the store by purchasing songs or whole albums. In 2008, iTunes became the largest music vendor in the US and has since expanded its offerings to include applications, TV shows, and movies.

Partnership Model

A Partnership Model, or a “cross-media offering”, can be represented by the example of Amazon Prime. Amazon offers its Prime subscribers fast, free shipping on their orders. They also get 30 minutes early access to select Amazon deals, exclusive access to movies, TV shows, ad-free music, Kindle books, and unlimited photo storage. As such, partnership subscriptions add more value to your pre-existing products and services.

Offering these perks as an added subscription is important in keeping all your customers. Those who wish to receive special treatment are free to upgrade their experience by paying a certain fee. On the other hand, customers who have no interest in these services wouldn’t feel like they’re missing out by not signing up to the paid feature. Furthermore, brands who choose to adopt this model have the freedom to offer both digital and physical products, making the partnership model especially helpful in easing an offline brand’s transition to the online marketplace. This model, however, usually works better for bigger brands, as their large teams and rich catalogues make them better equipped to handle the complicated puzzle pieces that need to be put together.

Can subscription models help media websites avoid the monetary drought brought on by the public’s avoidance of advertising? Hard Paywalls, Soft Paywalls, Freemiums, Download-to-Own, or Partnership models are being adopted by more and more modern companies that hope to maintain a steady income and compete in the digital marketplace. However, some have already started transforming these already new models and developing hybrid models to better meet the needs of their target audiences.

In the Chinese market, for instance, the aforementioned Micropayments have made their debut. The company behind this model, WeChat, allows consumers to read any piece they wish, then pay anywhere from 5 Yuan (USD 0.75) to 200 Yuan (USD 30.14) if they liked the content they read. These micropayments are facilitated by payment systems developed by mobile reading platforms such as Tencent. A whole new level of consumer flexibility and independence is explored in this model, which shows that despite the revolutionizing effect of subscription models, nothing in the business world is set in stone.

To find out more about other subscription models,

check out the first two articles in our subscription series:

Are you looking to upgrade your online business with a subscription service? Make sure you read up on How to Choose the Best Subscription Model for Your Website.

Karl El Hitti

Karl is a Creative Media Strategist at Bookwitty. His expertise lies in content marketing and original content. Karl also helps build marketable narratives around rising musicians as part of The Studio Keeward Music Residency Program.