Reinventing Magazines Online

25 tactics to help print magazines become online success stories.

The launch of the iPad and other e-readers has provided yet another platform to support magazine distribution. Unfortunately, long successful print magazine brands are showing signs of serious stress and the popularity of these devices alone won’t be sufficient to support the magazine business as we have known it.

Magazines are great for long-form content and provide a forum for beautifully rendered, high quality graphics. But extending these publications online requires a big change in mindset. Listening to SES NY‘s Spotlight on Fashion: Blogging for Style session, it is obvious that successful bloggers have been better than traditional consumer magazine publishers at extending their reach and revenues online. It started me thinking about what digital natives know that these magazine publishes don’t.

Here are 25 actionable tactics magazine publishers can implement to create viable online media entities.

Change Editorial Focus for Online Content Development

  • Determine which topics should be covered online and which should be covered in print.This doesn’t mean leaving the leftovers from your print articles to languish online. Think in terms of evergreen and time-specific content.
  • Write for an online audience. Consider where and how readers consume your content, such as on a computer, smart phone or e-reader. Create short, scannable articles that present bite-sized chunks of information in bulleted format. Use search-friendly headlines. Frontload important facts to keep readers wanting more. Write a series of connected articles rather than one lengthy piece.
  • Provide timely information. Gone are lengthy lead times of magazine editorial calendars. Develop content on a continuous basis and comment on breaking news as it occurs. Online content requires short turnaround since being first to distribute information has value online.
  • Amend and add to already published articles as stories evolve over time.
  • Expand content with non-traditional media formats such as video, audio, PowerPoints, and Webcasts. Leverage the breadth of formats to reach different segments of your target audience.

Make Content Searchable to Extend Your Audience

  • Use keywords and terms for which your target market is looking. Incorporate these terms into your titles, content and tags. Write for the long tail as well as breaking news.
  • Link to relevant content within your articles, both on your site and other sites. Provide links for readers to background information and evergreen content to support readers’ needs and to attract search engines.
  • Develop link-bait articles regularly to attract references from other media and blogs.
  • Optimize non-text media by adding relevant descriptions and keyword tags to support search optimization.
  • Make every page an entryway to your site by including useful navigation, links to related articles and lists of top articles on your site.

Socialize Content

This includes leveraging social media to enhance distribution, broaden your audience and engage in the conversation.

  • Use social media to draw readers to your content. Include Twitter, Facebook, and social bookmarking. Also, use RSS, e-mail, and text messages.
  • Open conversations around your content through the use of comments and bulletin boards. Encourage your writers to participate and respond to comments on their columns.
  • Provide channels for user generated content (UGC). Some media entities have formalized this process. Alternatively, enable consumer submissions of photographs, videos, and text. Include release forms to ensure that you have the legal right to share their content.
  • Make your content sharable through the addition of social sharing features such as “Tweet this,” “Add to Facebook,” and even “Forward-to-a-Friend.”
  • Use social media press releases to extend the reach of new, unique or newsworthy content.

Expand Your Revenue Model to Drive Profitable Sales

  • Leverage content to drive lead generation and affiliate sales. (For more information on affiliate marketing, see “Is It Time to Affiliate?” For some publications, this may translate to rethinking how content is categorized and optimized for revenue generation. Many social commerce sites drive revenues in this way.
  • Offer a variety of advertising options. This includes banners, video, newsletters, etc. Develop methods for making these advertising opportunities more effective by using better content integration.
  • Make advertising more effective through tailored opportunities such as sponsored forums and content that helps advertisers engage with your audience.
  • Develop new subscription offerings. Think niche products that fulfill smaller segments’ needs where you can leverage your expertise to help customers. Consider a variety of formats for subscription offerings such as newsletters, iPhone apps, and e-readers.
  • Create related paid products to bring in one-time revenue. This may require adapting content and editorial expertise to new areas. This could include conferences, books, etc.

Measure Your Results

As with any online marketing program, be sure to continuously assess your performance and use the results to improve your efforts. That includes:

  • Determine how and where your audience receives your message. Also, assess where else they would like to receive your message and what information they would be willing to pay for.
  • Track how well optimized your content is for target keywords. How well does your content rank on search engines for the topics you specialize in?
  • Monitor which articles attract the most page views, comments, tweets, etc. How do these metrics vary by subject matter, content format, or author?
  • Assess the quantity and quality of user generated content and engagement. Determine what formats your readers like to use and what gets them to engage. Examine the sentiment and quality of their interactions.
  • Calculate revenues and related expenses for specific initiatives to determine which are profitable. Consider direct associated sales and costs, plus any use of other organizational resources.

No single silver bullet (such as the iPad) will save every print magazine. Traditional publishers must make many changes to meet the challenges created by the coming dominance of new content delivery systems. To survive and thrive in this increasingly competitive online media marketplace, magazine publishers must learn from the tactics that have enabled made the best online media entities successful.

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