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    12 Ways Magazine Content Strategy Can Boost Reader Engagement

    at Audience engagement, Content Strategy

    How to Become the Missing Piece of Your Reader’s Puzzle

    Good magazine content strategy requires reader engagement. With digital magazine content, that can be trickier these days when everyone’s heard everything already and probably too often. Engagement is almost a dirty word in some circles now. Marketers used it so much in the early days of 2.0 social media in the 2000’s and 2010’s that it has become a cliche known for its failures more than for its successes and potential. Engage! People stare, blink, cough, blink, and then turn and casually walk away.

    Reader engagement: Beyond the hype

    Missing piece in red (audience) heart
    What is the content your audience missing?

    Many think engagement is about smiling or flaunting one trait alone. Or talking loudly. Maybe moving your hands around in enormous frantic gestures while standing on a table. Or even “calling out” other people via the Internet. Wow that’s sad. But it’s not the reality of engagement at all! For digital magazine content and marketing, this is all the more true.

    Those that frequently engage know that engaging is whatever is needed, but 100% from the heart. The truth is that periodical engagement strategies are evolving since the early days of social media, not devolving. And those time-tested strategies are working for many out there every day, especially for digital magazines.

    Lots of magazines, as well as author- influencers, are engaging audiences through content, creating subscribers, many of which follow the brand on multiple channels. Digital publishing is just one small part of the overall cross-market digital marketing renaissance. Twitter features rock stars not just in music, but in politics, and even in news anchoring. Your magazine (or you as editor) can be the rock star of your periodical niche.

    This is true not just or magazine content, but also of marketing outreach efforts. In that vein, the following reader engagement strategies and tactics can apply to either traditional magazine content and equally to other-medium magazine spin-off content. Absolutely bear that in mind as we go through each.


    Magazine content strategy 101: Recognize that your audience wants to engage with content.

    An audience engaged with the content on-stage.
    Is your audience engaged by your digital content?

    If there’s no sizzle and no flavor, what’s the point? What basic human needs can you help your audience members fulfill while you have the microphone? Why should people latch onto your content or channel? Formulate a list of stand-out reasons and then try to do a piece that embodies that ethic.

    Tap into the current media vibe surrounding your topic. Make the content in a brief but powerful burst. And then release it into the wild with all due launch party fanfare (for those who don’t know, a launch party is when you gather your associates together to help support your launch — and yes, everyone starts out that way).

    Reader engagement tip: Restrict your focus

    A hand holding a lens focused on a swan
    Focus is everything in a reader engagement strategy.

    One audience, one issue, one piece at a time. If you have many areas you want to touch on, this can be a painful lesson to learn. But nowhere will that lesson be learned than in producing a digital magazine with an online audience. This can be a very personal lesson for editorial calendar and campaign planners, as human personalities, as well as publishing professionals.

    It’s possible to be a fully-rounded, all-over-the-place creative and inspired personality, feel out all the areas you want to hit, jot them all down in a list, and then restrict your focus to maximizing the potential of each one at a time. Reader engagement is largely about focus.

    One audience niche. One type of need. One content piece to push over the top. One channel to fully own. One campaign to fully rock. Then move onto the next and repeat the process with your working bag of tricks.

    Magazine content strategy tip: Plan content waterfalls that build context & a relationship

    A waterfall: used as a metaphor for waterfall content
    Waterfall content keeps creating new, extended, relevant content.

    No, this has nothing to do with actual water. The content waterfall is a recent buzzword upgrade to emphasize the capacity of a brand to capitalize on serialization in their content planning. This isn’t just a planning simplifier, though it does simplify editorial content planning.

    Serialization of content is a way of seeing your content and campaign creatives. It means an idea waterfall that can keep ejecting new, value-added content. This waterfall is always extending the value previously added. This doesn’t just stretch out your content planning mileage. It ultimately increases your reader engagement by providing more bang for buck, How? By giving the context to delve into, related back issues, past bonus videos, etc. It makes your content more valuable, because it’s part of a larger conversation, as well as creating a valued, stand-alone piece.

    Whenever planning content, articles, or ads for your channel campaign, ask yourself:
    How can I make this into a useful stream of related pieces that work together and stand on their own?

    Honor the channel you’re on.

    Social media channels / apps
    Fully utilize the channel.

    Make sure your content & marketing plays to the strengths & potential of the medium.. But let people know they can find you on a that<-medium-friendly adjacent medium that you know goes well when paired together.

    For instance, if you’re Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram, video works well with any of these. YouTube is the easiest video channel to promote on Google (same owner).
    For YouTube, try to always ask for a subscribe to your YouTube channel. Try not to neglect that very crucial step. It can just be a card to click on the video, but call attention to your subscribe button once at the end of each video (or at the beginning also, for longer videos).

    Use 1 to 2 CTAs on every content piece

    The big finger of the sales CTA
    Calls to Action are like saying “I need you, too!”

    Isn’t this just a blog or video content thing?
    No. Today’s print and digital magazines can utilize a good user experience and social-ready engagement factors to allow the audience to connect individually to your publication, your contributors, and your brand. They can share their joy or positive vibes in the moment, when they’re really happening. And what they’re sharing is your article or other spinoff content, the useful information it contains, and the pleasing presentation.

    Use channel-specific CTAs to get:

    • Follows
    • Article/video/post likes
    • Channel subscribes
    • Related article reads
    • Views of related content
    • Special offer clicks

    Many may feel that asking for something is not engaging. But look at it from the visitor’s perspective, not the guilty marketer’s perspective. Not asking the visitor to subscribe is like getting a visitor who walked to your house to talk and not inviting them in! By asking them to subscribe, you’re telling them they’re welcome.

    Failing to ask for what you need doesn’t make sense. Failing to ask actually will leave most viewers hungry for more. They’ll likely feel frustrated that the breadcrumb trail ends there. They’ll possibly even leave confused and even a little weirded out. Imagine being allowed into the secret room in the back card room of an exclusive club of people in-the-know, only to find that you were being lead out into a silent back alley, alone and full of additional questions. Same thing.

    Empower the brand by expressing yourself across channels

    Magazine content strategy: Woman wears Groucho Marx glasses to demonstrate consistent cross-channel branding
    Express your brand personality across channels.

    Engage on all levels interpersonally and on all channels as a brand – in a unified way. Give people a taste of your brand as a whole before asking them to invest money in your product or services. Social media marketing veteran Chris Brogan has called this human factor “human business”. Others like Gary Vaynerchuk have also understood that a cardboard cutout isn’t an appealing or engaging way to represent anything, let alone a brand, which is supposed to embody human values.


    • Own a sense of humor that is contagious? Use it.
    • Sporting an attractive appearance? Use it.
    • Have a way of words? Use that.
    • Is your rapport with others legendary? Let it flow.
    • Got a knack for rolling off dialectics that prove your point? Argue like a modern-day Socrates.

    This is the simple salesmanship secret sauce of simply being your best self. So when representing your brand (in whatever way), be what you like most about yourself. Be that. Be the real you, the you that you prefer to be everyday!

    Magazine content strategy tip: Fully exploit your current content until it performs

    Performing content metaphor: dog jumping hurdle
    Train your content until it performs on demand.

    As you continue to produce new must-have, well-researched, well-thought-out content, make a post-it note on your computer, if need be, to do the following until it becomes habit:

    Content strategy tip: Use every piece of content to:

    a. Demonstrate your process

    This is just how you work or make what you make. Is this what sets you apart from others?

    b. Show your commitment to adding value

    Does your offering improve people’s lives? Is that what drives you? Let them see that.

    c. Demonstrate your authenticity

    Showcase the upside of your personality and experience. Do people think you have cute dimples when you laugh? You think people appreciate your candor? Are you an analytical person able to demonstrate facts and correlate them with human habits? Does everyone say you have psychological insight? Everyone say you an empathetic person? A leader with wise advice?

    Whatever it is that makes you an original work of art, now is not the time to abandon your true purpose in life just because you have a magazine to plan or promote. Now is the time to be authentic. Your best work depends on your authenticity for inspiration.

    d. Enact social proof

    Do you have friends? Employees? Well-wisher associates? Here’s a little trick that sets the pros apart: let people know you’re about to post something, even if they’re not subscribers yet.

    That’s right. There’s no rule of etiquette that says you can’t rally the troops before the big launch. They don’t have to post nonsensical comments or share it a million times (really, don’t do that…), but your associates can show some support. And while you’re getting momentum on subscribers, this social proof is really, really helpful to demonstrating your content has value according to someone.

    Stimulate a positive bodily response or action

    Reader engagement: Audience cheering performers on-stage.
    Stimulate a response from the audience.

    Ask a question, invoke a laugh, a shared feeling, or a mind-blowing eureka. Encourage your writers to engage the audience to respond with bodily action. Memorable action.

    Ask people to express themselves in a reciprocal interaction. How? Darren Rowse has addressed this, focusing on asking a question. By answering your question at the end of your content, or both at the beginning and at the end. At the very least, give them something to respond to! Are you charming? Brilliant? Funny? Now is not the time to hide it.
    Human beings naturally want to express themselves. This is as natural as stretching in the morning or laughing at something funny. Your content can be an excuse to fill out a basic human need. Don’t you think your audience will gravitate toward someone with answers and that little something their daily body chemistry needs, too?<

    Magazine content strategy tip: Make each content piece a work of art in a series.

    Colored pencils as a metaphor for reader engagement
    Each article is part of digital magazine’s content series.

    Are you a fan of anyone? It’s fun to be a fan of something you love, right? How many times have you seen a video or an article by someone of whom you’re already a total fan?

    Why do you like their stuff? Because they have their own branded way of making it a full package, and they know what a “good” piece is like when it’s finished. Because it’s just one in a series, like an Andy Warhol painting, it’s a next issue of an iconic comic book. It’s a whole and complete part of an oeuvre, and so related, anticipated..

    Ever seen an Old Spice commercial on YouTube? You know what happens when Gen X males see the ad? They go looking for Old Spice ads on YouTube. It’s that much better than anything the commercial plays on. So much so that Old Spice made their brand come back advertising on YouTube instead of on Superbowl commercial breaks where their competitors were advertising. One I just saw even makes awkward small talk to the male viewer in a low voice after the commercial is presumably “finished”.

    How did they know it was a male viewer? That’s a good topic for a future post. Teaser there.

    And even if you don’t think Old Spice is a brand you’re into functionally, the brand grows on guys (and their ladies) via two ingeniously opposed star characters, each targeted to the man or to the woman in his life. The campaign is one of the most phenomenal, profitable ones in history. That’s the power of a lovable brand.

    Reader engagement strategy: Say it simply, clearly, and boldly!

    Reader engagement: A silhouette of a woman yelling into a megaphone.
    Messaging should be on-target.

    How do you like it when someone’s talking to you, and you can’t make out what they’re saying? And then someone next to you breaks it down. And you feel what? Grateful, right? Grateful someone could break it down into plain, simple language.

    Imagine that Bob Dylan, the famous American folk ballad singer/songwriter, was talking to you to explain how to write a song. Bob’s known for his passionate, moving songwriting and lyrics. When he belts out a song, you can generally understand him. But when he’s talking to you, it may sound a bit garbled and even a bit rambling (he’s kind of known for that).

    Always talk to your audience as if you’re breaking down Bob Dylan’s explanation about what you do. Always assume that there is a complicated or confusing aspect of what you are going to say, and squash that complexity flat. Keep it respectful, but acknowledge that your topic could be complicated to others smart people just like yourself.

    Chop it up into digestible, intelligible pieces

    Cake slice image for formatted content
    A slice of good content is a very nice treat.

    There are a number of very tool-oriented ways to do this:

    Use formatting to draw attention to main ideas

    This helps skimmers zero in on key information (and let’s face it, we’re all skimmers)

    Reader engagement tactics: FOCUS

    i. Subheadings that encapsulate the gist of that section
    ii. Use of bold, italics, and underlined links to signal key ideas
    iii. Cross-link to your own relevant adjacent blog content and posts

    Following these formatting techniques actually keeps attention refreshed and even helps your SEO ultimately far more than stuffing keywords into the max recommended density per page, a million spammy gambling and link-farm inbound links, and so on (PSST: that stuff hasn’t worked for about a decade now, BTW).

    Be a closer

    A b/w illustration of a man auctioneering.
    Closers close. Buyers buy.

    A closer is a person who can “close” the negotiation and make a deal. This person has natural charisma or personality plus that they use to help shape the interaction in a positive way.

    Magazine Content Strategy Tactics to Close MORE

    a. Structure your spiel

    Have a structure to your presentation in terms of hierarchy and priority.

    b. Inject a positive vibe!

    Use every aspect of your personality power in every stage you reasonably can. AKA, be positive, but real.

    c. Make a meaningful proposal

    For a magazine, this could just be to ask oneself a question or consider a new way of doing something. Even in the pages of National Geographic or Time, there is a CTA targeting magazine marketing and/or business goals, such as a relevant ad space exploiting a tie-in, or a subscribe box. Your magazine has something to promote, right? And subscribing to the article’s author’s work on your magazine is certainly an ideal CTA that should apply to every article in every issue of your magazine!

    d. Demonstrate the value of your proposition

    Clearly demonstrate the value and benefits of what you’re offering by appealing to your target audience’s known “pain points” (sorry for the marketing buzzword). All your planned content on your editorial calendar should be working to create subscribers to individual authors, a general editorial perspective, or a needful niche that your periodical exclusively fills.

    e. Throw up a Call to Action!

    Don’t forget to display your CTA! This should come just before or at the end of the article, the magazine, and even the introductory editorial. Ask for the follow, such as the subscription. You could also suggest they like the piece. But don’t ask for 3 or more different things. Pick one most crucial thing and emphasize that. This is usually a subscribe, especially on YouTube.

    f. End every piece on a high note

    Every communication is its own thing. At the end, reader engagement is about keeping it real. Be natural, emote in your own natural conversational way, at your own energetic frequency. Ask for the viewer’s ongoing support if they liked the piece.

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    How does your digital magazine engage readers with content using these reader engagement and magazine content strategy methods? We’d love to hear your comments below on how you apply reader engagement in your own communications!

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