After all, buying a list and mailing a big direct mail package, in hopes of getting a bunch of people to subscribe as we all did in the old print days, is like trying to sell 21st-century tablets at an old-fashioned general store where hardware, ladies’ hats and pickles all shared the same space, and the proprietor fetched everything on your list, then wrapped up your purchases in brown paper and twine.
In those days, really big publishers could afford to advertise on TV, or in other magazines and newspapers. But most niche publishers relied on direct mail and the occasional bind-in or blow-in card.
When it comes to digital magazine marketing, you have many more options than you did with print. Some of these ideas may seem obvious, but I suspect there are at least a few you might not have thought of before.
Consumers are telling us loud and clear what they want—are you listening? Download a copy of our 2018 Mequoda Magazine Consumer Study for FREE, to find out how you can improve your digital magazine rapport with subscribers.
1. Digital Magazine Marketing With Your Website
Naturally, you already have a website where you drive traffic via organic search, convert visitors to email subscribers and sell your numerous products, right? Don’t forget to sell your digital magazine there, too – believe it or not, we’ve stumbled across many publishers who make it nearly impossible to figure out how to subscribe to their digital edition, and focus entirely on their print edition. Why are they hiding it? We’d love to know.
Create a bold “subscribe” button or tab on your website, so that users can easily take action. And rather than separating print subscriptions from digital subscriptions, place them side by side in the subscription form. Offer a digital archive with your digital magazine? Create a third option to gain all-access and include the web library. Use your digital assets to make the sale!
2. Digital Magazine Marketing with Email Ads
Just like offering digital subscriptions along with print subscriptions on your website, you should always include an offer in your emails. Yankee never misses an opportunity to let you know about their subscription, which includes their digital library, in every daily email newsletter through the use of display and text ads in between articles.
3. Digital Magazine Marketing with Sampling
If you have an app, there should be at least one free issue inside that a user can view. For web magazines, many of our publishing partners are using metered paywalls, which allow users to sample several pieces of content before being met with an access-challenge page.
4. Digital Magazine Marketing with Library Previews
Let us introduce a Mequoda favorite email marketing tool: the editorially-driven creative known as a Library Preview. The Library Preview is all about promoting subscriptions through thoughtfully featured excerpts of some of the most captivating paid content available on your site.
Rather than leading with a direct offer, the Library Preview model focuses on the editorial material your site offers its paid subscribers. Library Previews attract consumers with a compelling piece of content before making a brief, but persuasive, sales pitch to entice them to subscribe in order to continue enjoying all of the content your site provides for paid subscribers.
Library Previews almost always follow the same formula, and in our experience, it has proven to be a winning one, especially for those with metered paywalls because it entices non-subscribers to use up their clicks. Once they hit the paywall too many times, they subscribe.
5. Digital Magazine Marketing with an All-Access Pass
There’s no better way to market a digital magazine than with a better product, and the only thing better than a subscription to your magazine is an all-access membership. This would include your print magazine, digital magazine, and access to your digital magazine archive, allowing subscribers to get new issues, and search through old issues. Many publishers with content on additional platforms like video will sweeten the deal by bundling those products into the digital magazine membership as well. By offering an all-access pass, it allows you to price the digital magazine and the all access-membership at higher price points than your print editions, causing a significant increase in your average price per order.
6. Digital Magazine Marketing with Six Sigma
Six Sigma methods are used in direct marketing to test a control against a number of variables. You test each variable against the control in order to declare a winner and this continues until all the variables have been tested. This can take place over the course of a month, or over the course of a year depending on how many variables you have to test.
In subscription marketing, we adapt this structure to continuously test both offers and creative. For many of our publishing partners, we offer Six Sigma subscription marketing services.
For one of our publishing partners, we launched a high-frequency Six Sigma email program focused on selling more premium memberships. We increased the number of promotional spotlights from the standard 2-3X per week to 5X per week and introduced editorially-driven creative to alternate between offer-driven creative. We saw a 70% increase in their TOPX (total orders per 10K email subscribers) from this program.
The email campaigns are typically planned and measured in one-month cycles, where we identify the best performing spotlights and the worst performing spotlights in a given month-long cycle. We keep the winners and include them in the next month-long email cycle, and we replace the losers with brand new creative.
Meanwhile, we are also testing the offer. For example, for this particular publishing partner, we ran one offer for 4 weeks and we ran a different offer for the next 4 weeks. While this approach is a significant amount of work, requiring active coordination between editorial and marketing, on-the-spot analytics, great copywriting, and interaction with fulfillment to manage the offers, we have seen it work and strongly recommend all publishers try it.
7. Digital Magazine Marketing with Social Media
There’s no excuse not to use one digital medium to promote another. But believe it or not, some of the biggest players have yet to figure this out – and yes, it absolutely makes a difference! Below is an example from I Like Crochet. They are promoting their latest digital issue in the example below, with a big image of the cover, and a link directly to the online table of contents. For non-subscribers, this will lead to a metered paywall, that asks for an email address to view up to 3 articles, and as they click through the table of contents, they will quickly be asked to subscribe. Keeping the table of contents along the right-hand side of the page for consistent navigation as a part of your digital magazine design is a great way to get non-subscribers to get to the subscribe prompts more quickly.
8. Digital Magazine Marketing in the Newsstand
While we believe web magazines are the superior versions of digital magazines because they don’t require an app to access, there are still many publishers delivering digital apps. And let’s face it: If you have a digital magazine app and it isn’t available in Apple’s app store, it doesn’t exist for the vast majority of digital magazine buyers. Other options you may have already considered include Amazon, Google, Barnes & Noble, and Zinio. If you have a digital magazine app, make sure it’s a part of the most popular marketplaces. You lose a cut, but you gain an audience.
9. Digital Magazine Marketing in Print
If you have the resources, you could be buying space to advertise your digital magazine in other publications. In the past, we’ve seen Bon Appétit advertised in Glamour. And you should definitely be including an offer to go digital or upgrade to all-access when you renew or bill your print subscribers via snail mail.
Over the past two decades, we’ve guided more than 300 niche publishers through the process of transforming themselves from legacy print publishers into multiplatform operations that often dominate their industry niche and generate operating margins that surpass those created by their legacy print business. Learn more about how we can help you apply these strategies to your publishing business by scheduling a FREE consultation today.
This post was originally published in 2013 and has been updated.