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As magazine advertising revenue continues to dwindle, publishers are forced to find creative ways to reach new audiences and engage with current readers to convert them into subscribers. Today’s publishers are changing their content strategy to not only target smaller audiences with higher quality magazines published less frequently, but also leveraging data to understand reader’s preferences and incorporating a wide variety of channels and platforms to appeal to those preferences. Although digital mediums provide relevant, real-time information through a variety of channels, print still engages readers at a personal level — and publishers can leverage that loyalty to develop a revenue stream to help bridge the gap in advertising sales.

Content strategy

As the magazine publishing industry continues to struggle, the days when a publisher could put together a sustainable monthly magazine that engaged readers and provided an attractive vehicle for advertisers are history. Publishers need to provide a constant flow of content on a mix of channels to appeal to readers. Likewise, advertisers want an integrated marketing strategy across a variety of platforms, including print, website, e-newsletters, podcasts, webinars, events, and social media. They want each piece to support and complement the other and need to provide it in the manner their audience prefers.

An example of an integrated advertising package might include an eight-page gatefold in the print issue, five advertisements in other issues during the year, social media activations, newsletter feature, podcast and webinar sponsorships, and four branded articles. Not only does this example hit all the main channels for an integrated ad campaign, it reaches audiences on their platforms of choice.

Evolving print strategies

Although the digital revolution was predicted to be the death of print magazines, that has not happened. Digital has certainly disrupted magazine publishing, but savvy publishers are learning how to capitalize on the benefits that print has to offer and to integrate it into their overall publishing strategy.

Some publishers are having success with themed content cycles. For example, a Top Ten Women in Sports theme, featuring profiles of athletes published over several issues with related digital content will immerse and engage interested readers.

Other publishers are focusing on smaller, passionate niche audiences with fewer issues and higher quality paper. Popular Science revitalized its content strategy by cutting its frequency from monthly to quarterly, using better-quality paper, and enhancing visual content. It also raised subscription rates and has subsequently seen subscriptions rise 30 percent per year.

Subscription models

As advertising revenues continue to decline, publishers are shifting their attention to monetizing their content through paid subscriptions. What many publishers have found is that people are willing to pay for great content. And there are several models to choose from:

  • Paywalls are used to offer access to content. They come in three main types: Hard, where readers pay a fee to access any and all digital content; soft, where some free content (summary, abstract) is provided but the reader must pay to view the full article; and metered, where readers get a certain number of free articles during a specific time period.
  • Micropayments let publishers grab the interest of users who are not yet ready to become subscribers but are willing to pay a small fee for a small amount of quality content.
  • Memberships provide access to magazine content along with extra bonuses and added value.
  • Bundling provides various content options for different price points. For example: Offer a sample of digital content with payment required for the full edition; allow subscribers to pick and choose the digital content they want and pay for it piecemeal; or charge an annual or monthly fee for a membership that covers both digital and print editions.

In this era, magazine publishers must be creative in coming up with new content strategies, publishing cycles, and monetization models. Don’t be afraid to try new things, test their effectiveness, and, if they work, incorporate them into your publishing strategy, or if they don’t, move on.

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