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Reading duration: 24 min

How to Use Multiplatform Publishing for Magazines

Vee Banionis

at Digital marketing, Grow your publishing business

Online magazine multichannel how to opening conceptual graphic

What is multiplatform publishing for magazines? To answer that, first we have to ask what magazine publishers really want?  The typical answer to that is: subscribers, audience share, and revenue.

There is only one clear way for a magazine publisher to grow and thrive in this new fast-paced, digital age, and that’s to go multiplatform. For some, that might sound like fancy lingo. So what does “multiform” really mean and how it can work for you? 

The multiplatform publishing approach means that you publish your content into different mediums, massively maximizing your reach. It’s also about promoting to each of those channels and measuring what works best for your niche. This, in turn, allows you to continually improve effectiveness as you adjust the focus of your efforts on those channels later on. 

Multiplatform publishing at 5,000 ft 

Omnichannel multichannel infographic for periodical publishers

In the center of or example above, which we have dubbed the “Magazine Newsroom”, you have your editorial team at “Content HQ”. This core content strategy function focuses on creating necessary, premium content for your magazine and news sections. Content for all the other channels is created from your premium content by your production and marketing teams in the center. 

As we move outward from there, we see all the various channels, including the Magazine Hub, where the other channels also direct eyeballs to. Each channel may require a differing format of the content, different production process and distribution strategy. 

Let’s take a real-world example to really understand how this system works and if you can benefit from it as a publisher. 

Example

John the publishing entrepreneur

Tutorial example: John the magazine publisher

John is a publisher and he runs an amazing print magazine about muscle cars. The magazine has a circulation of 50,000 issues a month. John understands that he needs to expand his reach online to grow. 

John is a well-organized publisher so he starts by listing his business goals to make sure the whole operation is worth the effort. Here is what he wants to achieve: 

  • Reach more readers
  • Grow audience share
  • Engage that audience more often
  • Get real-time audience feedback
  • Offer regular video content
  • Sell print magazines and fan merchandise
  • Take sponsored partnerships to the next level 
  • Increase overall revenue

Everything in this list sounds very reasonable and I believe many publishers can relate to John’s goals. Can you? 

Let’s find the solution to John’s problem. 

At the moment, John has his main and only content distribution channel — the print magazine. 

John will need to shift the main channel to a magazine brand hub. In other words, we need to build a brand website that routes the traffic and collects useful marketing feedback (analytics). 

In some cases, just a simple marketing website with a way to collect subscriber information could be enough, but not in John’s case. John wants to compete to reach more readers and engage with his audience more often. John also wants to get usable real-time feedback and sell his items online. This requires a website that’s a bit more advanced. So, we’ll need to build the following sections in addition to standard features like the typical landing pages, subscription-centric website architecture and static content pages.

Step 1: Map out the required features

John’s listed of desired functions as as follows:

  • A news section
  • A blog 
  • A subscriber-only magazine section (premium content section with a free preview)
  • A digital library with all back issues
  • E-commerce software integration
  • A catalog with live search for his sponsor supply listings 

 

Now we have a solid magazine brand website outline – but how does it work with all these sections in place? 

Step 2: Imagine the conversion funnel

The conversion funnel is the path your visitors take toward becoming readers, subscribers, and finally customers. This web-based path matches the Buyer’s Journey, which is the series of goals you want to make happen. The Buyer’s Journey uses the desired functions we just created and turns them into a conversion funnel via the web.

In John’s case, let’s say he wants people to find h is content online during the research phase, via search results.  He then hopes they will click on his search results, enter his email address on the squeeze page, read an article, then after maybe a second free article, go on to become a paid subscriber. 

So the first conversion funnel will be to create paid subscribers from organic search, so that will look something like the following: 

Organic Traffic to Paid Subscriber Funnel:

Research > Discovery > Visit > Email Capture > Paid Subscriber

John will want to imagine other funnels, ideally, for things like paid ad clicks and product listings for his sponsors, but for now, let’s work with this key funnel.

Step 3: Attract visitors

The well-optimized website attracts massive amounts of traffic from all the content crawled by search engines. That’s one reason why we have a news and blog section. These sections help to engage with the audience and ping the search engines at a higher frequency as more content gets indexed by the search engines and as the various SEO ranking signals mount for individual pages.

In addition, each blog post and longer news post needs to be shared across your publishing network inviting people to read more on your website. Email and web browser notifications can be used to notify your followers of new content. Of course, the use and need will vary case by case. 

Next, we have all the premium content with a “preview” option. Within the publishing community this feature is called a metered paywall. This device gives you the ability for the reader to read some of the premium content for free (sort of like a free trial). 

Let’s say you give the visitor one free article a month to get a “taste” of your premium level content and to whet their appetite. Sounds like a good plan already, right? But wait, there is one more aspect.

A key benefit of the metered paywall lies in allowing all of your content to be crawled by search engines, like Google, without allowing the user to view more than X pages of the premium stuff unless they pay for it. 

How does this paywall work on SERPs?

The search engines crawl and index all of your premium content and bring you even more traffic. This search visibility is amplified  the more other people on social media or the web are pointing to or liking your content directly or via the social media status updates containing the link. These social links are what SEO people call social signals. Social signals are thought to help with the overall backlink profile by designating interest in your content on the web, and thus an aspect of keyword relevance and page authority. 

If online content curator websites are linking to and commenting on your content, you’ll get even more boost from these contextual permanent backlinks (something we cover elsewhere on this blog).

As you can see in the video illustration above, search engine spiders can pass through the metered paywall to crawl and index the content, but users must be logged in to view it. This is crucial because your content must be crawled by search engines in order for your content to appear in search results. Automatic login browser standards can help to make this a seamless experience each time the user clicks on a link to your content. Subscribers will go right to the unveiled content, while the unpaid visitor will only get a taste.

The digital library

And then finally, you have your digital library – meaning all of your historical content in digitized format. Not just published as flipbook, or a PDF but truly digitized – turned into attractive, replicated text and images with professional editorial formatting. It should also have a real hierarchy that compels greater consumption. This is how search engines fall in love with your website and start rewarding you with tons of great quality traffic. 

The attract phase is all about attracting visitors to your website. Remember our graph? Every channel in your network, such as social media, sponsored content, newsletter, magazine, etc should send visitors to the main brand hub – the website

Measure everything

It’s worth saying here that you need to have your tracking set up in all stages so that you know how your system is doing in each stage. In the attract stage particularly, you’ll need to track the overall website traffic and focus on lowering your bounce rate. This will have pay offs in both optimizing your lead nurturing pathway, and even benefit your site’s SEO health and visibility of your content’s search results in SERPs.

The best tools are Google Analytics and SEMrush. No matter what other analytics tools you use, these will always come back as the key for onsite and offsite metrics, respectively. If you succeed in the attract stage, more and more traffic will keep coming into the funnel, and for that, yout onsite GA will come in handy. 

Okay. So what’s next?

Step 4. Convert

Fish under a boat (email subscriber bait illustration)

We have this massive amount of cold traffic coming in from search engines and social media to your website. The thing is that the chance a random visitor will buy your magazine subscription or product at first sight is quite unpredictable and rare. We want to convert them to email subscribers first so we can have a free and direct way to engage with them and bolster their relationship with your brand. We never want to rely on getting lucky with impulsive buyers.  Luck is unreliable. Googd marketing all about building relationships that can flourish and multiply (via natural organic influence) over time.

Use an incentive (“bait”)

You’ll need bait to incentivize people to act. There is a handful of techniques on how to bait random visitors to convert into becoming subscribers. In John’s case let’s start with a downloadable freebie, content updates and the second free article from your premium content section. 

The downloadable freebie can be an e-book or some useful tool that is desirable for your audience. In John’s case, we decided to start with a list that we called “Top 10 muscle cars under 10k you can buy today” and formatted it as a PDF. Eventually, we’ll come up with up to 10 freebies and rotate them. This will help us see what works the best at the same time keeping a fresh offer on-deck.and making sure the allure of the message doesn’t get stale.

Most marketers stick with a PDF because they’re quite easy to make, test and improve, but depending on your niche many types downloadables can work. In John’s case – a coupon to a partner’s service, a contest to win some fan merchandise, simple app or a premium video might work as well. 

Use content notifications

If you have targeted your audience well in your messaging and outreach you’ll have a somewhat receptive audience. This means that your audience will  probably want to know when you roll out a new piece of content. They also will want to be pinged the moment a new issue is up. 

Offer a “subscribe for content updates” email notification option for your reader’s convenience. You can also offer a browser notification directly to the browser, but always try to get the email, since email allows more options for CRM and email marketing automation as you go, whereas browser notifications currently leave you with less CRM and lead nurturing options, no contact entry to work with for email, and the potential to become an annoyance.

Offer free content in exchange for subscribingOffer for free content on squeeze page example

Remember the metered paywall that controls access to your premium content and only gives visitors one free article a month? Well, instead of making them buy a subscription right before they try to read the second article, why not build another layer and offer one more article for free if they become an email subscriber? Afterall, one article may not be enough to hook a new reader. Once you have satisfied new subscribers  on your list, you have a valuable working email list. And as we will see, a working email list is marketing gold.

So at this point, if we did everything right, we should convert at least about 2% of all visitors to subscribers. One way to track the exact subscriber conversion number by tracking the number of new email subscribers in your Google analytics as goals, which make it much easier to track success on dashboards. 

Don’t have Google Analytics goals set up yet?  Don’t worry. Until you have goals set up properly, you can still track your conversions. If you have Google Analytics set up, you already have the number of page visitors, so it’s easy to get the conversion rate. The conversion rate here would be the percentage of subscribers who complete the desired action, depending on your conversion goal. To arrive at the conversion rate for magazine subscribers,  just divide the number  of signups or purchases by the number of successful email deliveries. Then, multiply it by 100.

CR = desired action / emails delivered X 100

Now you have successfully converted 2% of visitors to leads. Alright. What’s next? 

Step 5. Engage regularly

John now has a solid number of subscribers (that is, leads) in his email list. That means they are also in his marketing network. At this stage, John needs to start talking to them at a frequency that is comfortable for the lead, and only using great content and expert perspectives.

It’s crucial at this stage to have a solid content distribution strategy. It’s also key to have a reliable production and marketing team to “spin the wheel”. Each piece of content needs to bring value to your audience and promote the brand. 

John’s muscle car magazine has a lot of visual content for social channels like Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook. However, each of these channels requires different types of content.

For example: 

  • A nice car picture or video for Instagram with some text and a list of carefully selected hashtags
  • A nice car picture or video for Facebook with some text and a link to more info on a brand hub website 
  • A collection of images or an infographic for Pinterest linking to more information on a brand hub website. Think of offering something useful – like a  “Prepare your car for winter” checklist, or “The Hemi engine explained”. 

Whatever content you plug in, just be sure to do your research! You don’t want to present the same old top ten checklist everyone else is doing! You want to do a new angle or cover a never-before voiced concern. This makes your content stand out and get curated by other online influencers.

Remember? John wants to have a video channel. Meaning he will need a Youtube or IgTV channel. He needs both long and short-form videos created for these channels. 

Some of these videos might be transformed into podcasts to reach even more people (a truly crafty multi-platform content approach). 

Each longer video on YT should have two to three 1-minute long videos to promote it on social media. 

And don’t forget Twitter!

Twitter symbol

Many social platforms have opened up since Twitter first hit the scene, but few are as essential when getting out a message.

Twitter is a must to have to amplify messaging. It’s also a must to boost SEO scores and start a publicity-friendly conversation with your audience when used well. Your audience automatically expects you to be on this platform as an emerging brand. Twitter requires and favors short-form, pithy posts with hashtags, links, and pictures. Since the format is abbreviated, it tends to support meme-riding well (sometimes known as “piggybacking” among old school SEOs).

Engaging in social media must be frequent enough to stay in touch with the prospective audience, and yet engaged enough to be authentic. 

Try to trim back frequency to your ability to your guerilla marketing bandwidth. You’ll need to own the capacity to create the conditions for response and scale that till it becomes automatic and effortless..

In John’s case we decided to start with one post a day on FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest as well as one weekly video for YouTube and IGTV.  Our posting strategy is simple – every third post features our own product or a sponsor’s product. We also have the ads implemented on our videos, in a nice non-pushy way. 

Finally, the king of channels – the email newsletter. 

Email newsletters are gold for publishers

Email symbol (email for use in magazine marketing)

Your brand should operate a consistent email marketing strategy and send out useful free content mixed with your own and sponsored products. When sending out newsletters, however, always focus on making sure your subscribers happy and excited to be getting another email from you. 

As Chris Brogan says, never forget who you’re talking to is a group of individuals. Connect well every time. Your content truly matters. 

Experiment and adapt. Customize your subject headings, sub-headings, interior messaging and overall tone according to your industry, demographics, and increasingly, according to your own email campaign metrics. Moreover, you’ll need to do your email list hygiene by eliminating totally unresponsive entries, while allowing the slow-pokes to stay on. These list members often have hidden value as telling bellwethers of what many on your list may be thinking but nobody is telling you about your approach.

In John’s case, we decided to push out the newsletter 3 times a week: Tuesday and Thursday just before lunchtime, and on Sunday morning, based on some educated insights into the consumption habits of his audience. Timing is somewhat important to make sure that the reader sees the newsletter and has time and the right mood to fully enjoy it.

Step 6. Organize it

Just by thinking about all this content can be very overwhelming. Don’t worry, there are ways to organize everything. 

  • Use project management tools like Trello to parse out content tasks by function. 
  1. Use a social posting and scheduling tool like Buffer as a content calendar to organize and schedule all of your social media posting of content. 
  2. Recycle your posts to get the maximum visibility and interaction. Due to so much content nowadays people can totally miss what you are posting, and that’s why you need to repost. 
  3. Track social engagement (likes, shares, link clicks), newsletter stats (open rates, link clicks), video views, etc. The key with tracking is to understand what content makes the biggest impact on what channel and make more of it for that channel. 
  4. Use benchmark tools like SEMrush to help you to keep tabs on what’s driving traffic to competing sites and learn from them in some areas, while differentiating your brand in other areas.

Okay, so let’s assume your audience is engaged and they are now educated on their own pain points, branded on your brand’s niche authority, and have become sales-qualified leads that are now fully ready to buy from you. 

“How does the selling part work?”, you might ask. Well, for this part, you’ll want to send them back to your brand hub. 

 Step 7. Monetize  

Monetize your website (illustration of hands holding out money bags to a bright idea - a bulb with a living brain inside)

You want to convince your audience to follow the funnel all the way to the final step – actually buying your product. 

Each of your publishing platforms can have a different landing page setup to send your visitors to. This approach might be advisable due to various reasons like audience type, gender, age, offer, etc. It’s very important to setup the landing page the right way and track everything that could count as part of the Buyer’s Journey, (fancy marketing talk for the path from cold visitor to a paid customer). 

If you have multiple products to sell, each offer should have different landing page. You don’t want to confuse prospects by sending every recipient of every offer to a single impossible-to-digest landing page. Here we need to respect the concept of “white space” and enclosure of content based upon the intent stage i the Buyer’s Journey.

Make the buying process as easy as possible Fewer questions and actions are best. Be obvious and very straightforward with your calls to action (CTAs). Even a very small optimization tweak can sometimes have a big impact on your revenue, so A/B test your key content when you have sufficient traffic to provide an accurate reading from a sizable traffic sample. 

Key metrics

Metrics illustration

There are a few important key performance indicators (KPIs) here when talking about email.

  • ECR (email conversion rate)

This is the most basic metric for your email campaigns and the most relevant for online magazines. It’s also one of the easiest to remember. 

ECR (%) = subscriptions or purchases / successfully delivered emails X 100

Since we’re focused on the email recipient here, we only care about what happens from the campaign email send all the way through the possible taking of an action on the website. This might not take into consideration some things like unsubscribes.

Next there is the standard magazine revenue KPI…

  • RPS (revenue per subscriber)

The most important measurement here over the long term, especially for your growing your CRM, is RPS (revenue per subscriber). This really refers to the average subscriber’s total lifetime value to date.

To get this number, you’ll need to divide your annual revenue from the total number of subscribers you have. 

RPS = subscriber revenue / total subscribers

As soon as you find out how much money the average subscriber generates for your content and marketing network you’ll understand how much you can spend to help create each new fresh lead. 

You can also make this metric into a ready magnifying glass for each individual subscriber for CRM  purposes.

CapsuleCRM screenshot: Email marketing metrics for CRM

If you use CRM software like CapsuleCRM, you might use this metric to help you to group your email subscribers into lead categories for immediate marketing purposes, special deals, or incentives to begin to purchase on your website.

Got lots of clicks but no definitive actions yet? This simple tool can help your email and sales teams to sort them out in the near-term for more targeted direct messaging. Focus on just the sluggards – or on the subscribers most likely to buy!

Since your main offer for a magazine is a magazine subscription, the language and delivery method used will impact the effectiveness of your marketing messaging. This, in turn, impacts your baseline costs to be factored into your subscription pricing.

So, how does John’s offer page look?

We created 3 offers for John’s prospects

  • $19.99/yr for the digital edition (Desktop, Tablet, PC), 
  • $29.99/yr for the print edition, and 
  • $39.99/yr for the “all-access bundle” + digital library (all past issue archive)

 + a free gift

Based on our own experience, most buyers will tend to choose the value option, the bundle. 

Step 8. Scale to meet the market

Scale to meet the market (notebook pages featuring graph with upward arrow and a marketing plan)

Let’s say you’ve got your offers down pat. All the hard work pays off at this stage, becauses soon as you master “spinning the cycle”, it’s time to scale up and spread those offers to a wider audience of prospects. 

When it comes to scaling your audience wider, here are some effective methods: 

Ways to scale wider
  • Research
  • SEO
  • Paid advertising
  • Influencers (both websites and social media individuals)
  • Partnerships 
Scaling without changing the audience

When it comes to scaling the revenue without increasing the audience, let’s return to the example of John.

John is now getting tons of traffic to his website. People are subscribing to his magazine and keep returning for more free daily content and opportunities to be upsold. Now is the perfect time to start pushing the merchant-eshop and start selling sponsored products. 

A few ideas we can implement on John’s publishing network: 

  • Product and service affiliates
  • New advertising opportunities
  • Events 
  • Elearning

John’s Muscle Cars now is a big and respectable brand in the muscle car community. He focuses on content creation with his editorial team and outsources the rest to an outside team. Both teams are communicating directly and efficiently. Things are running smoothly. But how did he get here?

Production and distribution team duties may involve: 

  • Print magazine design and submission to printer
  • Digital magazine design and online publishing
  • Magazine website maintenance
  • Magazine website content updates
  • Marketing strategy
    • Magazine website and off-site SEO strategy
    • Advertising strategy
    • Social media strategy (SEO-friendly)
      • Content adoption for social media
      • Graphic design for social media
      • Video edits for social media
      • Social media distribution
Remote production & distribution team benefits:
  • Higher potential ROI
  • On-demand resources
  • No management, HR, office overhead 
  • No training cost
  • No talent search
  • Never run out of creativity 
  • Reliable long-term partnership you can build on 

Step 9. Simplify your multiplatform  process

Outline of a man sipping a drink

Multiplatform publishing networks become complex. That’s why you’ll want to continually revisit, outline and optimize the process to make it more intuitive for each team and team member involved. You’ll need and want to simplify it all so that it never gets intimidating and new members can jump in with easy reference for guidance.

  1. Create an outline that simplifies your multiplatform universe. Once this is in place, you’ll be able to expand or contract as need demands, as well as understand the hierarchy of experience within your teams without being the one to make scaling decisions directly.
  2. Create a history of known network and production issues. This can allow your team to know what to do when problems arise and higher-ups are not available. Team members can create contributions to be approved by management for inclusion, creating an issue library for internal use.
  3. Automate or outsource what you can and should. There’s no honor in doing mundane tasks by hand that can be automated or outsourced to better impact and more efficiently.

Once your overall multiplatform publishing process is simplified, ownership can detach from daily operations and management hierarchy can truly lead the team. Plug and play team members will understand how you do things and can reference the history of issues in special cases.

Struggling with multiplatform publishing for magazines? Please leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you to discuss your situation. We love this topic and can’t wait to hear from you!

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