The Economist and Newsletters

Posted by:

Newsletters are a unique form of communication, and one publishers should never overlook. Whether print or digital, newsletters function just like a magazine or newspaper; they have a circulation audience, seek to inform, and are delivered in timely intervals. In a way, it is a natural extension of a publisher’s strategy to incorporate newsletters, and it comes with several perks. A perfect case study proving this is The Economist.

In the last year, The Economist has doubled the normal amount of web traffic it sees from newsletters through updates in design and content strategies. This has led to increased profit margins, better numbers on the website, and additional subscribers to the publication itself. It is through actions and campaigns like their updated newsletters that The Economist manages to make more off subscription sales than advertising (a huge rarity in today’s age).

According to their 2019 annual report, The Economist netted $333 million this past year, of which 59% came from subscriptions and circulation to their 1.7 million subscribers (print and digital). Only 17% of that $333 million came from advertising, and that is a 3% drop from the previous year.

Now we know newsletters are a part of their success, but this is The Economist, who has a massive following, staff, and budget. Is this translatable to niche publishers or regional publishers, who have much smaller pools of resources and spending? YES. The Economist’s newsletters are not an asset and profit generator because they are backed by the robust power wielded by the publication, but because the process and approach are effective, and that approach can be replicated and borrowed by any publisher.

The Economist’s newsletter editor, Sunnie Huang, was quoted last year saying “Almost every week there are some sort of experiments going on. They could be as small as testing different image sizes or as drastic as overhauling the format of the newsletter. Every week we learn something new about our audience and grow as a team.”

Huang’s words are just a glimpse into the overall strategy behind The Economist’s newsletters, but this little glimpse says a ton. First and foremost, the newsletter has an editor, someone who manages its content in the same way there are editors for newspapers and magazines. The newsletter, to them, is a standalone piece that serves the needs of the reader, not just a reiteration of another publication’s content. Second, it is clear that they treat newsletters as a way to engage and deepen the relationship with the reader, not just a way to increase reach.

During the same interview where Huang gave the previous quote, she also delved much deeper into the nuances of how they approached the creation of the newsletter, and how they deliver it. They implemented UX (user experience) design to create the newsletter to fit their audience, not just look branded or clean. They also developed test campaigns to measure pain points for readers, how to resolve them, and even address the specific content requests and preferences that their audience had for newsletters (and they were different from The Economist’s magazine preferences). Even headlines are calculated to match the most frequently-used platforms of consumption.

The results of the stated efforts and the many others that are not stated: an entirely new pool of readers that receive the content that is perfect for them, and that pool of readers is 1.4x more likely to subscribe to The Economist’s full magazine than the average, interested reader who is not a newsletter subscriber. It also provides another touchpoint for those that are already subscribed, providing unique content and approaches that differ from the main publication. This means more engagement with your audience, and that increases the likelihood or re-subscription.

The Economist’s efforts in newsletters, along with efforts in other digital and print venues, can all be summed up with a simple quote from their Head of Produce, Denise Law: The idea is to bring a new culture of becoming a subscriber-first publication … We’re not just making money from eyeballs, but growing reader revenue.”

Further Information

To learn more about The Economist’s newsletter process and related interviews, click here. To see The Economist’s annual report, click here. For more information on the benefits of newsletters for publishers, click here.

If you would like more great content from Publication Printers and the Publication Printers Marketing Group, click here.

0

Publishers and Subscription Video-On-Demand

Posted by:

As the publishing industry continues to evolve, publishers are beginning to investigate and try new forms of content distribution to add to their mix. Currently, one of the most unique options is subscription video-on-demand.

What is Subscription Video-On-Demand (SVOD):

Cable and satellite are directly delivered program video, requiring the viewer to watch based on the pre-set schedule; if you want to watch 60 Minutes, you have to be on your couch at the right time on the right day. This is what is commonly known as traditional video, and while publishers can leverage it, it is not an ideal medium in most cases.

Youtube is the most common example of video on-demand (VOD), the opposite of traditional video. VOD is a service that provides internet-based video that can be watched anywhere at any time, hence the “cutting the cord” terminology that gets thrown around a lot. Most VOD content is user-generated and would not include content that is normally accessible through cable or satellite.

That is where options like Hulu and Netflix come in. These are subscription video on-demand, or SVOD services. The “anywhere, any time” concept is maintained, and content that would normally be found on cable or satellite is also included. It comes with a small subscription fee, but it is more affordable than traditional video options, and more and more video content producers are starting to include SVOD in their content distribution strategies, if not shifting to this form of distribution only.

How Can Publishers Use SVOD:

Publications are the owners of the subscription market. Sure, not every publication uses a subscription model, but the system was built for and by publications. It is about time it took authority in that realm once again. Subscription video-on-demand is a great place to start!

Video in general is a highly-consumed form of content, which means professional content producers like publishers should be leveraging it. It can provide a unique angle that complements editorial, or can cover content that might be hard to express in editorial. Using video just makes sense for publishers, especially when you consider that with SVOD, your content itself can be monetized.

Second, video does not have to be a massive, terribly expensive undertaking. The attention span for video is much shorter than that for written content, so you only need each video to be a few minutes to generate results. Also, with smart phones that wield incredibly high-tech cameras and numerous, affordable editing softwares, it is easy to shoot and produce quality video content on a budget. Considering that SVOD generates revenue, developing a strategy that balances video content costs can ensure profits from SVOD.

Third, subscription video is easy content to distribute. Publications today already have a social media presence and websites, and both those options have numerous ways to set up subscription-based video content distribution. A publisher can also sell their video content to larger subscription video services, like Amazon Prime, who already have a massive audience and subscription setup, and distribute the content on the publisher’s behalf for a fee.

The SVOD Decisions Publishers Face:

The most important thing for publishers to know is that VIDEO IS NOT FOR EVERYONE! While publishers as a whole benefit from SVOD and video in general, each case is unique; there are audiences who are not a right fit for video content, and visa versa. Publishers should investigate their audience and test before jumping on the video bandwagon.

If video is right for the audience and publication, the next hurdle is picking the content. It is not simply a question of what content the audience prefers, because some topics or content cannot be made into video format easily or in a short-form fashion. The publisher will need to develop a strategy to determine when editorial content can be expanded with video, or when topics can be made into standalone video.

SVOD also brings up the lifetime value issue. Many publications make their money with time-sensitive or time-contextual content. For video, this is a great option, but from a subscription standpoint, the content should be developed to provide value long-term. Of course, if a publisher develops enough video content consistently, this becomes mute, but for the publishers that prefer to do only a few videos a month, long-term value is how you ensure subscribers stick around, and new subscribers buy in.

The biggest challenge for publishers looking to leverage SVOD relates to distribution. SVOD may be easy to deliver, but it does take skill and setup if a publisher wants to rely on their own channels, and not a service like Amazon Prime. The system to accept payments and manage the subscriptions needs to be built or integrated into the existing subscription system. The means to host all of the video content needs to be dealt with. Most importantly, a strategy to drive traffic and sell those subscriptions needs to be made (bundle with print subscription, offer exclusive content to increase the value, etc.).

In general, video and SVOD provide value when executed well and for the right reasons. These decisions all help determine the worth to invest in SVOD, as well as how to ensure it has positive ROI if implemented.

Further Information

To read more on how publishers can leverage subscription video on-demand, click here. For information on how publishers can make use of video in general, click here.

If you would like more great content from Publication Printers and the Publication Printers Marketing Group, click here.

0

Magazines Still Need Print: The Facts

Posted by:

Print is alive and well, despite the abundance of whispers still asking the question. Over the past decade, the magazine industry has seen huge shifts in business, due to innovations in online and digital media. However, no matter how big the shift has been, print remains vital to the industry, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. Here are the reasons why!

Revenue matters, and print is still the breadwinner:

Advertisements from print were responsible for over $16 billion in revenue in 2016 (PricewaterhouseCoopers, commonly PwC). Around 87% of revenue related to circulation that year was also coming from print products.

Digital publishing has allowed for lower start-up costs for new publications, but the stream of revenue is not there for most. Only a select few, with the right niche topics and an abundance of alternative revenue streams (subscription video, social media advertising, tiered content strategies, other products, etc.) have found themselves extremely profitable with an all-digital publication. Most end up closing shop or integrating print just to balance the scale.

That said, to quote the president of Meredith’s National Media Group: “… print and digital; not print or digital. In today’s industry, balancing both is the key to success.

Data for print ROI has come a long way:

One of the biggest appeals of digital marketing and advertising is the ability to track information on a very precise level, or it used to be. With so many fake accounts and bots and other mechanisms, digital analytics related to sales or chain-of-purchase, or even just page views, is now incredibly hard to make accurate.

This does not change the fact that realistic data can be a huge asset. That is why so many publishers have worked to develop data algorithms that help prove ROI, track actual chain of purchase, and other vital details specific to print publications … and it is now a reality.

Bauer Media is one of the leaders pioneering print data analytics. Their software provides research data about advertisement and readership as a whole to help show advertisers how ads can help them meet their goals. The result is that Bauer makes ¾ of its revenue from print, and is thriving in today’s market.

Frequency and newsstand dates make a difference:

Digital publications, and online content producers in general suffer from online audiences expecting constant, consistent new stuff. As publishers strain to pump out content, they shift their focus from quality to quantity.

Print publications have a much lighter expectation for content, with weekly, monthly, quarterly, or even annual releases being perfectly normal. Not to mention, the slight variations in how often, and when it goes to actually producing the publication, can make a huge difference in dollars.

Vanity Fair is a great example of this. They combined December and January issues into a “holiday” issue, and also fused July and August to make a “summer” issue. This adjusted their schedule in the newsstands by just a few days, but meant saving a lot of money in printing costs. It also allowed them to have a flexible issue that they release in February related to the award show. It is not part of the normal print schedule, so it can fit in wherever is most affordable for their printer.

For digital publications, adjusting distribution makes little to no monetary change outside of the cost to produce content within a certain timeframe, and the staff needed to do it.

Further Information

For more detail on these facts about print and more, click here. You can also check out this article about 4 major reasons print is still around in a digital age.

If you would like more great content from Publication Printers and the Publication Printers Marketing Group, click here.

0