Notes & Quotes from Mequoda Summit Boston 2009: Digital Product Strategy

Take-away #1: Build your online audience and your subscription sales will follow

“We are in as big a turmoil in the economy that’s been seen in a century,” Don Nicholas, Managing Editor of the Mequoda Group explained.

“When I was entering the work force, I was learning to be a master at a trade that had been mastered decades before, and all I had to do is listen to my seniors. Well, we’re the seniors now and we’re just as confused as the next guys about what’s coming up.”

Next up, a little eye-opening true or false quiz.

True or False? Your Online Audience Should Be a Smaller Subset of Your Magazine Audience.

According to Nicholas, “what we typically see is that the online audience of a magazine is between 5 and 10x the size of their print circulation. The only thing a consumer needs to do to be a part of this audience is Google a relevant term and land on the website. To be a subscriber costs money.”

For example, Forbes.com averages 11 million has unique visitors per month, while their print circulation is around 900,000. According to Nicholas, Forbes also has 8 million email subscribers.

In relation to this, the next quiz question revealed that only four of the “top ten magazines” have an online audience that exceeds their print circulation.

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On a brighter note, a couple years ago when the Mequoda Research Team did this research, no publishers had an online audience that exceeded their print circulation.

“Publishers are waking up and reclaiming their market position. People.com went from 3k to 3 million unique visitors within a year. It’s possible once you decide to be an online publisher, to gain ground quickly” said Nicholas. Other magazines that made the favorable ratio? Sports Illustrated, Time and US Weekly.

As a final note, Nicholas told the audience that most Magazine Companies make less than 10% of the revenue from digital (according to AdAge). Some of the other top players here are PCWorld (38%) Consumer Reports (36%) and Entrepreneur (34.5%).

One last shocker for brains in the audience, was when Nicholas revealed while Forbes is America’s most popular online magazine brand, it’s still not one of the top 50 websites, it’s actually #88.

Nicholas explained that in 2009 you’ll find that the website with the most pages, probably has the most inbound links, which probably has the best indexing of Google, and probably has the largest audience.”

He also revealed that many publishers that have those large audiences will tell you that the largest source of their subscription sales come from online.

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