Magazines are a premium luxury item these days. To entice subscribers, you must focus on the value of the content for the audience you’re targeting. This may sound more difficult than it is because the assumption, of course, is that print is floundering. But that’s simply not true. There is plenty of proof that magazine sales have risen this past year. Audiences need content, they want content, and they will pay more for a premium magazine product. So, despite all the bad news, we have a window of opportunity to increase subscriptions by showing value to audiences. Here are some ways to do it.
Keeping Arkansas Life alive
Let’s start with an interesting tale of a small regional print magazine that managed to keep afloat even in the tsunami of the new digital publishing ocean. NiemanLab reported on Arkansas Life and their innovative subscription plea that turned readers into paid subscribers, ultimately keeping the magazine afloat. Arkansas Life started as a free publication in 2008. However, readers in December 2019 received a personal letter from the publisher that told them their advertising-based publication model was no longer sustainable. The publisher asked readers to pitch in a $20 annual subscription fee or run the risk of losing the publication altogether.
The pitch for readers was highly risk-laden; it was basically, subscribe in the next two weeks or we fold. The publication used social media and their local relationships with businesses to continue the campaign for the full two weeks. As a gamble, it worked. Arkansas Life secured enough money to keep the lights on. While this was an innovative plan to convert readers to subscribers, ultimately the magazine did fold — but it was the global pandemic and not their failure to increase subscribers that ultimately killed this publication.
5 Ways to increase subscribers this year
There is a niche for paper. Sure, digital is eating the planet, but there is enough data out there that shows we can carve out a firm place for paper editions of our gorgeous publications. If you’re committed to publishing a print copy of your magazine, we have five concrete suggestions for how to increase subscribers this year:
- Focus on converting single-issue buyers into subscribers by discounting the cover price.
- Offer welcome gifts to new subscribers, but do so carefully. Make sure the gift is something your target readership values. A contest model or sweepstakes for new subscribers is another option. Make sure the value of the gift is higher the longer the subscription.
- Show existing customers they matter by offering a thank you gift to renewing subscribers. Your goal, ultimately, should be to retain close to 100% through value-adds while steadily adding new subscribers.
- Subscriber-only content is an “us against the world” approach that will appeal to your readers. Offer subscriber-only discounts, events, and content to create a sense of value in your publication. Use these offers to attract more readers; let them know what they’re missing by not signing up.
- Go premium and be best in show. The data shows that if your magazine has value to your target audience, they will be willing to pay a higher price. If you can create original, compelling content that engages your readership, you will win. It truly is that simple — and that complex.
Here’s a bonus tip: use digital content to promote the print brand. Consider your digital effort a complement and support for your print publication. Promote your premium paid content online to drive your readership to subscribe.
What can print learn from digital?
Can print learn anything from online disrupter content platforms? Yes! What’s New in Publishing suggests that magazines should, “Be digitally sustainable so that print revenue is like an add-on.” Although magazines can continue to be marketed effectively as a separate and equally valuable resource alongside the digital channel, many publishers are focusing on building both channels to ensure success. Some key ways to increase readership by leveraging the best parts of both digital and print include:
- Increasing the value of all products by producing more podcasts, videos, live events, and non-news content.
- Developing more verticals and “top ups” to differentiate your products.
- Repackaging and pricing both digital and print content to understand what works in an ever-changing market environment.
- Increasing your portfolio of subscription services, including those that are not content-related. For example, consider looking at how to use your e-learning platform to offer a more personalized service to subscribers.
Consider enticing new readers this year by leveraging an omnichannel print and digital approach. Ultimately, what we can learn from digital is that our approaches to retaining print readers and reaching new audiences requires an agile, innovative mindset. With the right approach, there is profit to be found in all your content channels.
Contact your Sheridan representative or visit our contact page to ask how we can help you streamline your publishing processes, reduce costs, and keep up with changes in print and publishing strategies.