Raising the Publishing Bar

March 29, 2018

Tactics to recharge readers 

More and more and more it just keeps coming. It is now so easy for anyone to write and publish just about anything that the frenetic surge of digital and social media continues. Because publishing has become everybody’s right instead of the privilege of a few, the relevance-&-quality filter isn’t always part of the process. Publishers who value this legacy standard, must distance their content from the moshpit of mediocrity. To do this, the best publishers are working to differentiate their material by making sure it is relevant, unique and valuable. Getting away from what many have dubbed the “content crap trap” requires some pointed effort.

This effort is the basis of six tactics for publishers who want to reignite reader alliance and enthusiasm:

1: Think Reader Not Readership

Even in the land of plenty, readers are left empty and feel disconnected because sources aren’t providing personally relevant messages or content specific to them. Publishers have subscriber and consumer data that can provide baseline information on reader behavior and buying trends, but using that data to create custom-tailored experiences for different personas based on personality attributes, emotions and values is the answer to spiking engagement and revitalizing readership.

Consumers crave a personalized advertising experience 71% of respondents prefer ads tailored to their interest & shopping habits.1

Content relevancy will continuously cultivate genuine admiration for a publication and its advertisers.

One way to do this is to take demographic data a giant step further and overlay it with data that pinpoints personality traits, values, attitudes, interests and lifestyles. A psychographic approach forges a desperately needed means to personalized editorial and increases reader loyalty and revenue.

Demographic and gender segments contain several personas with individuals within those persona groups. Generalized content or mass advertisements don’t address specific needs; consumers want relevance. Cater to their character, standards, ideals—respond to what the data is saying about readers. Once customers trust that they are understood—and better yet—known, they will make a commitment to a publication.

2: Gift a Ride-along

Step away from the box and think bigger. Coupons, incentives and quick-savings fixes are great—sometimes. For longer-lasting impact and intrigue, gift readers smartly packaged, sustainable samples or refills. Actual products within pages should make readers pause, impressed to be experiencing something different and unique from a printed magazine. Double-down on gratitude for a brand, and get advertisers excited about giving.

Data-related giveaways can be based on age, gender or locale and will for sure forge a stronger connection with a subscriber. A free unexpected gift, for me? Why thank you! Use social media to follow up. Check in to see who wants to receive more of the product or send an accompanying product the following month. Start giving them what they want, what they really, really want…. or at least a little smidge of it.

When sampling, the brand is in more control of the who, how and when. Consumers rarely expect samples and assuming the timing and targeting are right, they are pleasantly surprised when they get one 2.30% of consumers say they received a free sample in the past year.2

3: Be Selective

Exclusivity is not a great practice on a middle-school playground but is incredibly compelling as a loyalty tactic. Having access to programs, offers or events that not everyone can get in to makes readers feel special and valued. Being invited to special events with access to top names and brands in the industry will elicit powerful word-of-mouth praise—these are one-of-a kind experiences and the invitees love letting everyone know about what they’ve missed out on. Guarantee they’ll post, snap, or tweet about it. Bragging is big PR for publishing brand hosts.

Events bring magazines to life. What is changing, however, is the strategy behind these events. Events are no longer just a reason to party or generate excitement in the press. Events now are part of multimedia communications strategies to boost reader loyalty, bring awareness to new audiences and grow revenue. Events link like-minded advertisers and marketers with readers (and shoppers), and readers with editors. Events extend editorial coverage onto social media platforms and, through retailer sponsorship’s and ticket sales, boost the bottom line. Be exclusive and party smarter.

Nearly 54% of respondents said that publisher-branded events will be a top source of growth within the next year.3 Trade shows, exhibits, sponsorships and other live opportunities that forge partnerships between media brands and advertisers.

4: Become a Social Light

Social media marketing is red hot for publishers & it is working

Publications of all kinds are interacting with consumers continuously and instantaneously. They Snap, Tweet and post—pictures, videos, one-liners, links and full articles.

Along with just getting more readers involved with brands, some top magazines actually monetize the platform using social advertorials that bring in paid brand promotions in discreet ways. Others are creating what they call audiograms—static images on Instagram with pull quotes and audio loops to narrate a story. Facebook is used to drive interest in upcoming issues, and other publications will put impressively witty tweets on Twitter.

Social media is a powerful pull to growing readership. Because 59% of readers enter Facebook or Twitter contests to win products or receive discounts 4, savvy strategies will incorporate social media to entice prospective readers. The key with social however is that it must become a continuous active campaign. No such thing as one-and-done or sporadic posting. Social media presence takes perseverance and effort. Do not make the mistake of doing this half-arsed. Won’t work.

Total followers and likes for magazine brands on social media platforms—across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, and Pinterest combined—has reached 1.1 billion in the first quarter of 2017, up nearly 5%compared to last quarter.5

5: Scratch Their Back

Restructuring incentives based on readers’ specific interests will matter more than generic or blanket rewards. When product loyalty programs falter, revenue decreases; don’t rely on what used to work and hope for the best. Instead, use first and third party data to create tailor-made rewards and personalized editorial.

What would it mean to your best readers if their names were part of a personalized message on the actual cover, not just the mailing label?

Or what if the advertisements in your magazine were custom tailored based on demographic and purchase data. These data-driven versions make a difference by keeping loyalists in love and boosting alliance with brand advertisers.

Another option is to invite select subscribers to have a seat at the planning or contributing table. Give them a voice in what happens within your publication. Include them in your world as a valued guest. Offer team membership for a day, or ask exclusive subscribers to be guest editorial contributors which will create buzz and excitement in the customer’s network. New readers are born of this buzz.

Remember what they like—and give it to them. Attracted to exclusive access, immersion in the brand, pre-orders and special discounts like free shipping, readers join the inner circle and the benefits that come with it, and those benefits far exceed customers’ annual fee(6). Strategic tactics focus on repeat or profitable customers, create levels or badges for readers to aspire to, consider diverse needs . . . and in the process gather valuable data about what customers want—and what they don’t.

Develop your strategy, and be loyal to those who are loyal to you.

6: Raise Editorial Bar

Want out of that moshpit of mediocrity? Ask the deeper questions. What does your publication stand for? What is the brand story you are trying to tell? How can what you are writing be the very best quality? Make connections with readers by giving them valuable content that is better than what other publications are putting out.

What does your publication stand for? What is the brand story you are trying to tell? How can what you are writing be the very best quality?

Superior content should cover what isn’t covered—what has been overlooked by others. Who is making a difference? Whose stories are inspiring? What content will readers share, find intelligent and credible? What relates to them?

Authenticity created with care is the crux of innovative content, and readers will appreciate the effort. No matter the tactic, superior content is more than well-written words on a page. Rather, it brings real benefit by teaching, entertaining or inspiring. Elevate your content. Readers will reach to join you.

Quality is never an accident. It is always the result of intelligent effort.

John Ruskin

1. MarketDive
2. Mediapost
3. O’Dwyer’s PR News
5. Mediapost
6. Forbes