Mobile navigation


31 digital publishing tips to grow your business

The Specialist Media Show ran its first fully online event in November, bringing together publishing and media experts from both sides of the Atlantic to share practical ideas. Carolyn Morgan listened in.

By Carolyn Morgan

Publishers could tune into online presentations and take part in expert Q&A sessions on web, mobile, email, subscriptions, media sales, online events and social media. It was a great opportunity to hear from some pioneering media thinkers and ask your own questions.

Here are some of the nuggets of advice that visitors from around the world could collect without leaving their desk.

Mobile Publishing: Rebekah Billingsley, Immediate Media

The art of publishing and marketing magazines on mobile and tablet is evolving rapidly, and we can all learn from listening to pioneering publishers like Immediate, who have over 30 titles now on mobile.

1. Experiment with PDF replicas rather than hold out for interactive perfection. And don’t forget smartphones. In niche markets, many readers are happy to read a PDF replica on their phone.

2. Focus on subscriptions: two thirds of Immediate’s sales are subs, so test out 3 month and 6 month offers as well as single copies.

3. Repackage your content: digital newsstands work well for specials, bookezines, and compilations – and it’s cheaper than testing new ideas in print.

4. Use your in-house channels to market: make the most of email lists, website, social media, working with advertisers – and get your keywords right to get found on newsstands.

Multi-platform Media Sales: Raoul Monks, Flume

Marketers want bespoke campaigns that reach their target audience across multiple channels, and a single contact point. But selling multi-platform packages is challenging for media sales teams as new skills are required.

5. Make your campaigns easy to measure. Marketers are under pressure to demonstrate ROI for all their activity. So, media owners must make it easy to measure results, and ask clients about their objectives before proposing a campaign

6. Provide your client with customer insight. Media owners can add real value to advertisers by sharing their knowledge of their audience, and be considered an expert on the market.

7. Minimise the risk for advertisers. Provide case studies to help increasingly risk averse clients invest in your publication with confidence.

Subscription acquisition: Carola York, Jellyfish

Even print subscriptions are now largely marketed online – and publishers can dramatically expand the reach of their titles with limited investment using the latest acquisition techniques.

8. Create a dedicated subscription site. Publisher home pages are cluttered with content, offers and ads; a standalone subs page or microsite can dramatically grow volumes for print and digital subs. Nursery World added over 1,000 subscribers in a few months with a dedicated subs site.

9. Use editorial to attract new subscribers. Special reports or valuable content can be used as a hook to promote subscriptions to a completely new audience using PPC. This approach has worked well for Money Week.

10. Target the mobile customer. Check that your email marketing, your subs landing page and your subscription forms are mobile friendly – and design your marketing to catch people when they are using phones or tablets.

Social Media for publishers: Patrick Smith, Media Briefing

Editors who engage with their audiences on social platforms get quality feedback, new stories and new contacts. And this can build email newsletter lists and make it easier to promote events and premium content.

11. Plan your activity. Set specific goals, and experiment with different time-slots to find out when your audience is receptive.

12. Check the impact of individual stories using tools like

13. Add a point of view to your posts – don’t just set up automatic links. Add your own spin and personality, both to your own content and that of others.

14. Add social comments back into your own stories; eg by pasting the tweet in directly.

New Google services for publishers: Luca Forlin, Google

Google is actively courting publishers with a range of products making it easy to reach new readers and get them to sample content – or even pay for it. Publishers large and small are already experimenting successfully with these new channels.

15. Use Google Currents to reach new audiences for your website: it’s free to set up and publishers get analytics and can include ads or direct readers to their own site for email sign-up or subscription. ShortList and New Statesman are seeing good ad revenues already.

16. Access all Android mobile devices with Google Play Magazines. Coming soon to the UK, it provides a scrollable text layer as well as a PDF replica.

17. Try Google Hangouts for live video interviews that integrate with Google Plus. The FT and Economist have been experimenting with both to good effect. Plus niche publishers have pioneered paid demos and instruction.

Email marketing for mobile: Serena Elston, Adestra

As many as 25% of your emails are now being read on mobile devices, and busy consumers make instant decisions to act, delete or save for later – perhaps. Marketers need to fully understand how emails work on mobile in order to encourage these elusive people to act.

18. Time email campaigns to match which devices customers are using. Commutes are top for smartphones and daytime for desktops.

19. Plan campaign timing around when people click, not when they open, as smartphones are used to scan and sort messages, not to complete forms.

20. Test longer subject lines for mobile, as they work just fine in the mobile inbox – and include pre-header text.

21. Use media queries to adapt your email design and layout to suit the screen size of the device.

22. Make buttons large so they are easy to tap with fingers – and design forms that are easy to complete on a phone.

Subscription websites: Miles Galliford, SubHub

Many traditional publishers still struggle to sell online subscriptions to premium content. However, there are some simple rules that improve your odds of success.

23. Offer some free content and allow trials to gradually widen your reach and email list and build up customer trust before jumping to a subscription sales pitch.

24. Readers may use your content online to solve a problem you didn’t know about; eg Preaching Today providing ideas for sermons has $1m turnover based on one page from a magazine. So, spend time finding out what problems they have.

25. Make sure you have an unfair advantage; eg exclusive content, access or algorithm, to make it harder for others to copy.

Online events: Gavin Newman, Ivent

Most publishers run live events to get their audiences together and provide content in a different format. Online events can extend reach and expand a live event portfolio. But how best to make it work and make the most of the content that is created?

26. Use existing content to add richness to an online event. Plus the event creates new content that can be re-used on website and in future online events.

27. Create value for sponsors and visitors before the event takes place; eg invite-only discussions to create new content, or offer taster sessions of presentation content, or sponsor-led networking sessions.

28. Make content available on-demand after the live days to draw in a wider audience.

Retaining online subscribers: Minal Bopaiah, Subs Site Insider

Acquiring new online subscribers is only half the battle: the key to a profitable business is retaining them. But online subscriptions have some specific challenges, so marketers need to learn different tactics.

29. Build a friendly welcome programme; include a helpful welcome page with a guide to content, followed up by useful emails with hints and tips.

30. Grow site engagement: subscribers who use the site frequently are more likely to renew. Make logins friendly, remind them of the content and build the community with commenting and forums.

31. Target marketing around key drop-off points with special offers to tempt subscribers before they lapse.

Running the online event was a fascinating experience, as we were able to bring together so many speakers and experts and provide publishers from across the world the opportunity to question them and get instant ideas and advice without having to travel or queue! It’s by no means a replacement for a live event, but a really productive way to pool ideas across a dispersed and busy community.

The videos of all the workshops are available to view on the members section of the Specialist Media Show website. Plus you can read transcripts of the expert Q&A sessions which took place throughout the event.