If anyone understands how to create audience-specific content, it’s a magazine. Hundreds of years of experience have given magazines the ability to capture audience attention with well-crafted content.
Until the internet came along and changed all the rules.
The internet has changed the way content is created, marketed, distributed, and consumed, and many magazines have been slow to adapt, sticking with inefficient systems to publish content, slogging through time consuming processes for managing data, doing things the way they’ve always been done, and recognizing neither the new opportunities nor the true challenges.
If you want to grow an online audience, it’s not enough to simply port your print content and processes over to your digital media. You need to maximize editorial efforts and leverage content in a variety of new ways through smart technical solutions that give your magazine the ability to captivate online visitors, and serve online advertisers and subscribers more efficiently.
Here are 5 opportunities your magazine should be pursuing (or at least thinking about), in order to succeed in today’s digital publishing environment.
1.Understand how people are accessing your content
More often than not your readers are accessing your content from their mobile device. That is, if you’ve made your site responsive to mobile platforms. A responsive site will render correctly to whatever device your reader is using, ensuring a good viewing experience. If your site is not responsive, readers can get frustrated trying to achieve their goals, resulting not only in lost audience share, but also compromised search results, as Google gives preference to responsive pages.
Further, audiences simply aren’t reading digital content the way they read print content. In fact, they may not be “reading” at all. On average, web visitors read only 20 percent of the text on a page, and often favour visual content. And even when they are reading, they’re often really scanning -- looking for key page elements to give them the main idea without having to spend more than a few seconds on the page. That’s not to say there isn’t a place for long-form content, just that it’s critical to understand how your audience prefers its web content.
2. Make use of the full complement of digital content formats
Traditional magazine stories are feature-length articles that take weeks or months to produce. But web has created a broader definition of content -- video, slideshows, infographics, social media, etc. -- and a quicker timeline for getting it published.
For example, you might not bother to do a feature story on that event you attended last weekend, but if it’s something your audience is interested in, why not snap a few photos, write a few captions, and post it as a slideshow? It’s easy to generate appealing content your audience expects. And it’s absolutely critical to supplement your magazine’s feature content with frequent updates and multimedia stories.
3. Automate your subscriptions
There is no excuse anymore for running manual processes in circulation fulfillment. Your magazine’s content management system can do it all for you -- from allowing subscribers to purchase and renew online, to integrating with third-party fulfillment companies.
In fact, you should only have one central data storage system for all of your subscriber information, web user profiles, and e-mail lists, meaning there’s only one place where you need to make updates. And you can shift most of that responsibility onto your users and subscribers, enabling them to self-manage their subscriptions and personal info.
4. Maximize editorial efficiencies and repurpose content
Magazine processes are often filled with redundancies. A writer creates an article in Word. A web editor puts it online. A marketer writes and posts a Tweet, and writes teaser content for a newsletter. Writers have even reported quitting over challenges with inefficient systems.
It’s time to stop recreating the wheel every time you need to repurpose your content. Give your writers access to create their stories right in the CMS. Then, publish your content and let the CMS do the rest. You can sync your content management system with your social media channels, e-newsletter tools, and syndication channels so that you only need to create the content once.
5. Experiment with revenue generation tactics
Ads have been magazines’ main bread and butter since the beginning of time, but simple implementations of online ads haven’t delivered the dollars (with some exceptions like Google’s Adwords platform).
But digital platforms have enabled many new options for revenue generation: targeted (and retargetted) ads, native content, sponsored features, sponsored sections, syndicated content, e-mail marketing (yes, it still works!), not to mention content monetization in the form of paid archive access, micro subscriptions, and porous paywalls. The Atlantic is one example of a magazine that is winning at digital due to its innovation with online revenue sources. Habitat Magazine, which redesigned its site last year to capture new digital opportunities has found success selling access to its archives, sponsored videos, and digital subscriptions.
If you haven’t broken out of your ad revenue comfort zone, now is the time. The options are almost unlimited.
Doug Plant is the Client Engagement Manager at Mugo Web, a Vancouver-based web development firm specializing in websites for publishers. He likes working on web projects because the return on investment is so easy to recognize; working with eZ Publish because it is so efficient to deliver on; and working with the Mugo Web team to deliver great tools to publishers.