Place Online Order Forms on the Bottom of Every Content Page

How magazine publishers are doubling and tripling print subscription orders by putting online order forms known as OFIEs (Order Form in Editorial) on every website page.

Executive Summary

  • Understand how to make simple online order forms your largest source
  • See how three very different publishers have implemented online order forms
  • How online order forms are changing the way publishers deploy content

In the past few months, I’ve seen results from three different magazine publishers that have each literally turned their source mix on its head. For each of them, a simple online order form that costs them almost nothing has rocketed their website to the top of their print publication’s source list. The website design trick is called an OFIE or Order Form in Editorial.

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Problem: Most magazine websites are a mess. The editorial, advertising, circulation and technology groups don’t share well. And if there’s even the most modest advertising sales effort, “house-ads” for magazine subscriptions are overwhelmed by third party banners. The subscribe buttons and persistent navigation do an OK job, but in the end, just don’t get much play considering the volume of targeted traffic some sites see.

Opportunity: The publisher of a 400,000 circulation special-interest consumer magazine was generating about 25,000 new net paid magazine subscription per year from a website with about 3.5 million unique monthly visitors. Her Circulation Director proposed putting an online order form that looked like a subscription blow-in card on the bottom of every page of the website that held content: the home page, search pages, index pages and of course, article pages. The online order form or OFIE would be placed below everything but the page footer, a position that no advertiser wanted. Other than the time to develop the creative and link the order forms, there would be no significant ongoing cost to run thousands of OFIEs. The orders would, in effect, be free.

Results: After 14 months, total online order form volume is projected to be 80,000 or more for 2005, or slightly more than triple the volume with traffic up about 15 percent year over year. That’s an increase of about 55,000 net subscriptions per year. This publisher’s website is now her largest source of print subscriptions.

Bonus: Adding more content pages creates more page views which drives more website advertising revenue and more print subscriptions.

Lesson: We have only begun to figure out how to use the Internet generate revenue. The publisher in this case and others we’ve talked with make all the content from their print magazines available online—for free. In fact, all these publishers generate hundreds to thousands of new content pages each month, making the current issue just a tiny fraction of the content available at the site. The sheer volume of online content they publish makes the strategy of having online order forms on the bottom of every page a winner.

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