Albert Einstein gave the definition of insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Using this definition, the online publishing industry is a tad nuts.
Online publishers often generate new content daily (which is expensive and taxes already overburdened writers), then wonder why revenues are flat. Instead, publishers should harness the power of their content to drive subscriber engagement and generate incremental revenue.
To do this, online publishers need to better understand their audience’s needs and preferences, then plan content that can be delivered in various formats via a mix of channels over time.
If you want to know, just ask. I recently talked to a publisher of a niche industry publication who confided that they were embarking on a free daily e-newsletter and were concerned that the content would upset readers who pay for the print publication. This provided a great opportunity to discuss the publication’s audiences.
I learned that the publication has a segment of older subscribers who only read the print edition and younger subscribers who prefer email. Younger readers, who are newer in their careers, are interested in reading different content than more seasoned subscribers.
Both of these findings are crucial bits of information that help the publisher target audiences based on their reading preferences and lifecycle with the publication.
The only way to really understand what subscribers prefer is to ask them -- and the easiest way to do this is through a customer survey. Surveys can be done online or by phone, but before formulating the questions, talk to a few customers first. From these conversations, you can draft questions that are more targeted and provide more valuable input. Generally, we’ve found that online surveys are more successful at generating responses and cost less than phone surveys.
Follow the data. Once publishers have a good understanding of their subscribers, they can begin to sketch out the formats and delivery channels that will engage their readers. These can include various channels (social media, email, print) and formats (webinars, e-books, white papers), to name a few.
Then the fun begins -- and by “fun,” I mean “planning.”
Planning is fun because this is how publishers can really drive reader engagement and grow revenues without hiring more staff or stretching current resources.
Start by looking at articles you’ve already written and see how they can be categorized together and made into something new. The possibilities are endless. For example:
• Publishers who regularly cover technology advancements in their industry can go back through the past six months of articles and create content that reviews the biggest technology trends of the year.
• Go through articles to pull out industry best practices and develop a compilation.
• Articles that are part of a series can be combined and turned into new content.
Once you identify content opportunities, consider the format and channel that best reaches each segment of your audience. For example, the publisher I mentioned above can easily create compilations of industry trends and offer them via an email series to younger subscribers and as a special pull out section of the print publication for traditional readers. Both can be underwritten by an advertiser.
Going forward, plan content with an eye toward how it can be rolled up or divided into a different format. It might be easier to work backward. For example, if you know that you want to produce a webinar and e-book quarterly, decide on the topic and then plan editorial that will support the topic. Look for ways to integrate the promotions of content and advertisers to underwrite or sponsor each of the formats.
By getting to know your customers and planning reusable content, you’ll find that both your readers and your advertisers are much more invested in your publication. Your writers and your bottom line will thank you