Subscription Popups: Your Thoughts?


My design team and I have been experimenting with an in-window subscription pop-up for

This is where an in-window display (like the image above) asks if you’d like to join a free newsletter. They have been increasingly popular on the blogosphere, arguably because they work well–they turn casual visitors into subscribers.

I was reluctant to try one out, since I find them mildly irritating when done inappropriately, and I know plenty of readers have strong opinions about them. However, I’ve also spoken to several bloggers who have successful businesses that say the tool can double or triple the subscription rate (which in turn, can lead to double or triple their income).

My guess is that most of the regulars here already get updates via RSS or email, so they probably wouldn’t even notice. For the rest, the popup is set to only appear once, after you’ve finished reading the article, so I’m experimenting with the least aggressive version first.

What are your thoughts on the popup and subscription popups in general?

Hate them? Couldn’t care less? I’d like to get some of your thoughts in the comments.

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  • Scott Young

    Thanks Tristan,

    I’m going to keep the popup as-is for the next month, so I can see just, in principle, what kind of change it makes to subscription. After that, I’m going to spend more effort seeing what ways I can make it more user friendly.


  • Michael Kwan

    I’m not a fan of these at all. They feel intrusive, but I understand the rationale for the site owner. Perhaps if you could get it to work with cookies, only displaying it to a visitor no more than once a month. That way, you can still capture the new readers, but repeat visitors won’t get hit by the pop-up.

  • Pete Michaud

    Scott, after reading this today I put some thought into the problem, and implemented an alternate solution.

    The basic issue is that you want something that jumps out at the user to encourage sign ups, but you don’t want to annoy or alienate them.

    As a compromise, I wrote a script that displays a subscription box along the bottom of the screen when the user scrolls the comments section. In theory I could make it pop up beforethen, like the moment a user starts scrolling for example, or after X seconds on the page. It wouldn’t matter because it doesn’t actually get in the way of reading.

    Also, if a person does use it to subscribe, he’ll never see the popup again (as long as the cookies are set). If they simply hide the box, it will show up on the next post he reads.

    Take a look, and tell me what you think:

  • Scott Young


    Good idea.

    I’m not clear that the popup is really what drives subscriptions. Rather I think it’s that people are forced to make a decision (whether to close the popup or sign-up), that encourages sign-ups.

    That said, I’m going to stick with my current system for at least a month so I can have some data about what to expect, then I’ll experiment with other options in a split-test manner.

    Thanks for your help!


  • Kagemitsu

    The popup is quite annoying when browsing the website from mobile phones. Just sayin’. 🙂

  • Scott Young


    Good point, I’ll have to look into disabling it for the mobile readers.


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