In digital edition terms - it really is a numbers game - yes, engagement and dwell time is a key factor in showing if a reader is enjoying a product - but publishers mainly want two things: subscription growth, and digital ad revenue growth. For this to happen, advertisers need more substantial numbers, and subscribers need to see the value in taking up digital, and this is the challenge. From my point of view - it has to come down to two main elements: effective marketing and - most importantly - is the product actually any good and worth the extra cost? Here are some further thoughts to take into the New Year and beyond...
Effective marketing within a publisher needs an experienced team who are willing to take a risk, try new methods, capitalise on social media and know where to find the eyeballs - and
'If you build it, they will come', is quite true in many cases - but you need to tell them about it too. There are so many fantastic digital editions that haven't been marketed enough - and these will quite possibly fall by the wayside if they aren't promoted enough in the right places. The Economist newspaper
We've finally seen the end of Apple Newsstand, so magazine apps can now sit on device screens instead of hidden in a folder - a positive - if your users actually work this out.
So if the places you normally sell your product aren't as effective as they should be - how can readers find your app, or learn about the monthly editions, and how do you counter the lack of platform activity?
This year's UK Audit Bureau of Circulation numbers didn't provide any
How have they done this? The Economist is an excellent weekly product on all tablets, all phones and in of course in print, and they have a super-value subscription offer that includes all channels - '£12 for 12
In December 2015, we saw the first ABC 'Newsbrands' report released for 2015. This will include the full picture of brands' circulations, and online traffic in the same place, and on the same day - print,
If there are magazines included, which would be fantastic, as they are not just about paper. Most magazine brands have far larger communities following them and taking an interest, compared to whoever buys the print edition, and this is the value of social media and a strong online presence. We are now living in a digital world and this should be reflected in the ABC circulation reports. Being able to see the true scale of magazine brands at a glance in 2016 is going to be useful for publishers, advertisers and sponsors alike.
In 2016, we'll see magazine publishers adding news feeds to their apps, and giving the reader a reason to return on a daily if not
Knowing your reader is vitally important - so integrating the right analytics and listening to your audience is vital. And providing a bespoke experience in return for loyalty is a must-have feature. Tailor your product for various situations - and make your customer relationship a personal one. Watch for trends within your readers, stay nimble, and act fast when you see a change in habits and market forces.
Your app needs to work well across
There are so many great providers of digital magazine software who have been doing this since the iPad launched and even further back - from Adobe DPS to Pugpig, Contentment, Press Reader, Edition Digital, and more. They don't come free of course - but all are worth considering for your digital publishing strategy going forward.
Another major challenge for publishers is keeping resources in check at time when technology changes so fast - how much does it all cost compared to how much you make in sales and ad revenue, is it within your budget for the year, or are you taking a risk and hoping the readers will come across organically? Encourage experienced, autonomous ownership of the product, but have they focussed on the wrong element? Are the print and web teams involved, or do you have a central team that create digital editions to save on cost? This might mean that ownership within brands has to be compromised - which I believe makes for a lesser product.
Be agile in your approach, have a solid plan for three to five years, and make small tweaks and celebrate small successes as you go. Once your strategy has been a success in an initial area - roll it out into other teams when the time is right, and you'll start to affect a positive culture change within your organisation.
One thing is for certain in 2016, is that the digital marketplace will continue to evolve on a weekly basis, and plans that are put in place one month can be out of date just one month later - so stay sharp, focus on your audience, the product's continual development, and the marketing that promotes it, and don't be afraid to take a risk and experiment with new ideas.
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