Subscription business models are based on the idea of selling a product or service to receive monthly or yearly recurring subscription revenue. They focus on customer retention over customer acquisition. In essence, subscription business models focus on the way revenue is made so that a single customer pays multiple payments for prolonged access to a good or service.
With the rise of technology and software as a service (SaaS) products, many companies are moving from a business revenue model where revenue is made from a customer's one-time purchase to a subscription model where revenue is made on a recurring basis in return for consistent access to the delivery of a good or service.
The easiest subscription business model to understand is that of a magazine company. Instead of selling a magazine as a standalone product where a customer makes a one-time purchase, magazine companies offer a subscription service for the delivery of a weekly or monthly magazine. In this model, instead of having customers make single purchases, magazine companies offer monthly payments for a yearly subscription to access their monthly magazines.
If a magazine company offers a monthly magazine service, instead of as a single magazine purchase, it offers its service as a 12-month service comprised of 12 purchases. This makes the revenue model of the company stronger because it guarantees itself sales over a 12-month period rather than a single purchase. This makes revenue forecasting and business planning easier since a company can project its sales farther out with more accuracy.
Magazine companies are not the only model that uses a subscription business model. With technology, almost any product or service can now be a subscription model. An example might be the Motley Fool or Seeking Alpha.