An indie magazine publication by Subsail

Squarespace just announced that you can now sell subscription products through their commerce tools. This is a big step for Squarespace as a platform and pushes them ahead of other services like Shopify, who don't yet natively support recurring payments.

Squarespace's subscription offering is an interesting option for magazine makers, especially for any publisher already running a Squarespace website: do you use their built-in (quick to set up) but generic (doesn't work amazingly for magazines) subscription tools or use a platform like Subsail, which has been built for your specific use case?

Let's delve into a quick comparison between the two products so you can easily see the differences...

TL;DR

Adding a fixed-interval renewing product to your Squarespace shop will not make managing magazine subscriptions any easier. It helps with selling subscriptions, but you'll still:

  • spend a lot of time figuring out who needs which issue (probably using complicated spreadsheets)
  • have to release issues on a strict schedule
  • have a headache preparing your data ready for fulfilment

Subsail solves these problems (and more) because it was built specifically for magazine subscriptions.


Squarespace' positives

Image from Squarespace

Seamless

Subscriptions are now built into Squarespace, so you can create and manage subscriptions alongside your one-off products. This is great and gives your customer a cleaner and smoother experience when purchasing.

Though, note that customers can't add subscriptions to a cart in Squarespace; your customers have to pay separately for subscriptions and single issues, just like with Subsail.

Subsail does its best to merge with your site, offering a customisable design and an overlay checkout (meaning the checkout happens on your website), but subscription payments are still made separately through Subsail.

One price

With subscriptions built into Squarespace's Commerce Advanced plan, you pay a single fee as a Squarespace customer ($46/month).

Subsail has its own rates starting at $29/month. Though if you're on the $18/month Squarespace Business plan and you've sold fewer than 200 subscriptions on Subsail, your total is only a single dollar higher ($47/month for both platforms) plus you'll get all the benefits of Subsail's magazine-specific tools (read more below).


Where Subsail shines

Adding a new subscription product in Subsail.

Flexible renewal periods

A normal subscription processor will give you fixed renewal periods, like every x months or every x years. Subsail is different. Most independent magazines have irregular publishing schedules—such is the nature of the beast—which means publishers can't just switch on subscriptions that charge on a regular basis.

Subsail's renewals system was built around the idea of flexible renewal periods. When you come to releasing your next issue, tell Subsail the day you want to charge your renewing subscribers. It's as simple as that. Even those who publish irregularly, can take advantage of reliable, recurring revenue.

Subsail is built to sell magazines

Squarespace has to offer a system that works for a wide range of subscription services. On their help page, they list “packaged food and beverages customers order regularly”, “subscription boxes for cosmetics, and other health and beauty items” and “ongoing services, memberships, and maintenance packages”. Already that covers a lot of markets.

A product that needs to cater for a lot of different needs can't be powerful and has to make sacrifices in various areas so that it can work for everyone. Subsail's advantage is that it's built with one customer in mind, namely magazine makers. It has a single purpose and aim so can be dialled in to that singular mission.

Subsail lets you manage every issue in an order or renewal individually, rather than as one order to fulfil.

Orders contain actual magazine issues

When a subscription is bought with (or imported to) Subsail, magazine copies are instantly created for that subscription and its subscriber. You can easily see which issues the order contains and can, from that point on, easily keep track which issues your subscribers have purchased.

With a Squarespace subscription, you can't map the order easily to your physical issues. You will have to somehow manually map orders to issues in an external system. When you get email alerts from Squarespace notifying you of a renewing order, you'll have to make sure you note those issues in a spreadsheet.

No more spreadsheets

The first problem that Subsail was built to solve was the reliance on complicated, error-prone spreadsheets. Using Squarespace subscriptions, you will need to have another place to work out which issues your subscribers should be receiving and have received. Copy-pasting data between systems leaves you open to frequent data handling errors.

With Subsail, your issue lists are generated automatically and you never have to manually manage subscriber lists; it's all done for you immediately.

In Subsail you can easily keep track of magazines you need to send out. This data is created automatically when a new subscription is added to your Subsail account.

Better management and insight into your subscriber base

Subscriptions sold through Squarespace do not get their own place in your e-commerce admin. They are mixed in with all of your other orders, making it hard to find but also restricting your ability to know much about your valuable subscriber base.

Subsail has tools to help you know the size of your readership, the amount they are paying, where they are located and more critically, the issues they need to be sent. Filtering, search and dedicated lists help you get clear insights into your subscriber data, so you always have a clear picture about your biggest fans.

Having to think up a password to purchase a subscription with Squarespace

No passwords for customers

Each subscriber in Subsail can log in and manage their shipping address, payment method and see up-to-date status of all of their purchased issues. This all happens using unique log-in links sent directly to customes' emails, rather than asking them to create yet another password (like Squarespace does).

Sell digital subscriptions

One of the limitations of Squarespace's subscriptions is that they only work for physical or service products. Subsail allows you to create digital subscription products, which work exactly the same as print subscriptions and all the data and tools for print and digital orders are the same in your account. You can even sell "print + digital" products.

Manage subscriptions from multiple sources in one place

Subsail can host subscription data from many different platforms, with automatic imports from services like Shopify, PayPal and Woocommerce, and CSV uploads from any other source. With many platforms supported, you can sell subscriptions anywhere (even offline) and manage all of your subscribers in a single place.

Easily change your web host

Squarespace is a great website builder and e-commerce platform. But not everyone will or can stay on Squarespace forever. If you ever look to leave Squarespace but use their subscription products, you'll find there is no similar alternative and you may end up being forced to stay.

Subsail's checkout can be used to sell subscriptions on any platform, so you can easily switch website hosts and continue using Subsail for your subscriptions.


There are many things to take into consideration when choosing any product. Hopefully this comparison highlights the pros and cons of both platforms so you can make the best choice for your business needs.

(Photo by Ben Kolde on Unsplash)

Updated on 27th November with the "No passwords for customers" section.