Multiplatform Publishing Strategy

Increasing Digital Magazine Engagement is Easier Than You Think

Add member previews that feature current and collected content instead of watching your digital magazine engagement numbers drop

The other day, I was scrolling through headlines as I often do, and came across an article on magazine engagement on Forbes titled, Magazines Lose Reader Engagement When They Go Digital-Only: Will Other Formats Suffer The Same Fate?

I cringed, honestly, because it’s a dramatic way to get to the real issue: magazine publishers don’t know how to engage digital audiences. The title and statements within the article imply that print editions are ravaged from cover to cover, when in fact they often make great paperweights, and neat stacks next to the couch. Digital editions, on the other hand, are easily engaged with, and the publishers we work with have loyal readers who stop by regularly to digest digital content.

So, when it comes to digital magazine engagement, what’s the difference between these publishers, and the ones we know who are improving engagement every day?

We do work with niche magazines, and even admitted within the article, Dr. Neil Thurman says, that “more specialist publications might not lose the interest of their audience, since that niche audience has fewer alternatives to turn to.”

However, we see another reason why digital magazine engagement is higher in our circle.

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You Can Increase Digital Magazine Engagement with Thoughtfully Written Preview Newsletters

A digital web magazine without a companion email newsletter for premium customers is certainly going to suffer a dramatic loss in reader engagement when compared to a web magazine with a companion preview newsletter.

The most important tool in the toolbox of a publisher with digital assets like a web magazine, is this companion preview newsletter. This is an email newsletter sent once to several times per week, that reviews content within the latest issue as well as the digital archive. For example, it’s the holiday season, and if you’re a subscriber to Yankee magazine, you’ve been receiving emails promoting different articles within their holiday collections. One example is their Yankee New England Holiday Collection, which curates a number of cookie recipes, handmade gifts, and local light displays, all of which are featured in the preview newsletter. To engage digital subscribers, you need to give them reasons, and the means, to keep coming back.

We have data from the folks at The Economist who have a daily preview-driven newsletter that links back to both free and premium content, and their statistics around digital magazine engagement versus print engagement are very similar.

As in with most numeric comparisons, there is a dependency on the baseline when the print issue is dropped. If the publisher has already doubled reader engagement by deploying a web magazine and companion preview newsletter, total time engaged will certainly drop by 30 to 50% if the print edition disappears.

However, if the transition is viewed with a longer lens where where looking at total time spent for print as the baseline, and then transitioning to a multiplatform strategy which includes both print and a web magazine with its companion email newsletter—knowing that eventually the print product will cut frequency and eventually disappear—the comparison of print only engagement versus digital only engagement should be roughly equal.

Should You Start Writing Preview Newsletters?

Obviously, there are many tactics that publishers can deploy to increase overall premium member engagement with their digital offerings. Still, we’ve seen none more effective and universal than the companion email newsletter that features previews of premium content and links to full stories with similar content.

Digital publishing is fundamentally different than print publishing because the digital product is not disposable, and the library of past articles when curated properly, become the most valuable component in what can be a relatively long list of membership benefits.

What’s your take on digital magazine engagement? Leave us a message in the comments below to weight in. 

By Kim Mateus

Chief Strategy Officer

Kim Mateus is Chief Strategy Officer for Mequoda Systems and the Mequoda Systems Content Network where she oversees strategic planning for the organization's 200 plus premium subscription products. Over the past decade, she has guided the development of more than 20 subscription marketing systems including I Like Crochet Network, New England Network and Your AAA Network. She and her team maintain an exhaustive best practices database of subscription marketing techniques and business processes that she uses to advise her clients and optimize the more than 60 websites that make up the Mequoda Systems Content Network. Kim is a frequent speaker at industry events and serves on the board of the Specialized information Publishers Association.

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