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Supplier Q&A – How should publishers foster community and build engagement?

The Supplier Q&A for the July / August 2013 issue of InPublishing magazine was, How should publishers foster community and build engagement? It was answered by Oscar Carlsson of Cint, Andy Guy of Circdata, Andrew Perry-Smith of Linkz and Richard Stephenson of YUDU.

By Supplier Q&A

Oscar Carlsson, VP of Products | Supply of Cint, writes: By regularly purchasing or subscribing to a particular publication, whether a consumer fashion glossy or a fitness magazine, an individual is expressing a personal interest and making a statement about themselves. Spending a proportion of their hard-earned wages on editorial content on a specific topic, particularly during the current economic climate, is demonstrative of a desire to find out more about a subject.

This information alone is gold-dust to publishers. Human nature tends to dictate that we enjoy sharing our thoughts and opinions on a topic with other individuals who share our interests, demonstrated by the explosion of online forums, from parenting to fashion tips. If they are subscribing to a magazine on a weekly or monthly basis, they will jump at the chance to speak their mind and share their thoughts on a related topic – particularly if their feedback is acknowledged, or even rewarded.

Publishers can capitalise on this opportunity by engaging with their readers using technology. Creating an online community of readers will allow them to find out exactly what it is that they are interested in. In the current challenging economy, many publishers are turning to technology to create databases of their readers, who they can regularly call upon to ask questions in order to develop editorial content, events and offers or to ensure up-to-date and relevant media kits for potential advertisers. In many instances, the respondent is rewarded for their time with a cumulative points system or monetary payment.

Crucially, with new technology, undertaking research has never been quicker or cheaper, whether done in-house, via a DIY tool, or through a market research agency. This means publishers can analyse results quickly and efficiently, and can trial ideas with their online community before launching to a wider customer base. By obtaining feedback from piloted ideas, the publishers will always have their finger on the pulse of their readership, and its circulation is likely to grow as a result.

Magazine publishing can be a fickle world, with readers switching allegiance regularly, or forgoing print editions altogether, as shown by publications such as Easy Living and Newsweek, whose content is now entirely online.

Publishers that can build up a brand that is bigger than its monthly print issue are likely to see readers follow and engage with it, regardless of whether it is print, online or mobile. By establishing a dialogue and proactively reaching out to readers to gain their insight, these readers will feel valued and that they have a voice, and which inevitably leads to increased brand loyalty.

About Cint: Cint is a global technology provider creating easy-as-pie solutions for the publishing industry to help engage and monetize audiences: * Create on-demand media kits * Get feedback from your community * Track and prove your ad space value to increase your media sales * Generate revenue by giving your community the opportunity to answer third-party surveys

Contact information: Oscar Carlsson * * +46 (0) 854 638 302 *

Andy Guy, Operations Director of Circdata, writes: Content. Trust. Recognition. Belonging. Engagement. Loyalty. These words all come to mind when considering this subject and each plays a role in the evolution of the spirit of community.

One pre-requisite, however, is to get the basics right; an account-based online portal is one way for people to update their own contact data and indicate their preferred salutation. A second pre-requisite is to bring together customer data across all delivery channels, so that each person’s touch points with the brand can be identified, knowledge which can be used to create accurate person-specific communication.

Content, of course, is what brings people to a brand and the key factor in keeping them, a strong online presence and appropriate social media now being sine qua non. Some B2B media owners, though, risk the spirit of community by bombarding customers with messages ranging from daily newsletters to third party promotions, making the relationship appear purely commercial rather than more altruistic. The solution is to allow members to specify through which channels and about which brands they wish to be contacted and honour this. It is an issue of trust, hard earned but easily squandered.

Trust in a brand can, however, be monetised, one avenue being for a media owner to leverage its reputation and act as a shop front for products and services relevant to its community; examples include motoring brands selling insurance products through to hobbyist sports brands selling equipment and holidays.

Recognition of a person’s status within a community is crucial and fundamentally serves to instil a sense of belonging in its members: my family is classed as a Senior Contributor after 30 reviews on Tripadvisor!

Engagement with an audience is where social media proves most powerful. It is also noteworthy that traditionally print-led media brands now regularly organise events, a medium which genuinely brings a brand to life, and can be quite ingenious: the concept of organising face-to-face wargaming events for a hobbyist military brand is pure genius.

In B2B, many event organisers now run educational seminars to run alongside the main exhibition, giving the community more reasons to attend and positioning the brand as expert in its field. Editors themselves are also in demand, with several appearing regularly on mainstream media, a fantastic way to make a brand appear authoritative.

A logical extension is for media owners to consider moving to a “membership” model wherein a subscription to content is included within the fee and additional membership benefits might be offered to reward members for their contribution to the Community.

Lastly, media owners should look at ways to measure levels of engagement across the Community and to profile the most active members who engage across all or most delivery channels, an exercise which should be repeated at regular intervals so that lessons can be learned and ideas tested.

About Circdata: We excel at bringing complex multi-channel audience and transactional data into an easy-to-use Single Customer View solution supported by a range of fulfilment and marketing intelligence services. Whatever the delivery channel, we can provide guidance to improve business processes and customer journeys, working with you – the media owner - to monetise your data, content and audience.

Contact information: James Ormiston, Managing Director * * 01635 869868 *

Andrew Perry-Smith, Managing Director of Linkz, writes: So many publishers are resigned to fighting a rear guard action to preserve declining advertising and circulation revenue because print is too passive to create the kind of granular, measurable and interactive community that other media can demonstrate.


There are a growing number of publishers embracing mobile interactivity as a way of bringing print to life. No, this isn’t about QR codes, ugly and unsafe things with limited technical capability, but ‘second generation’ platforms using digital watermarks and image recognition as a way of enabling readers to interact and engage with printed content. However, regardless of your preferred technology, it is the implementation that counts and there are two basic rules to follow.

Firstly, building any kind of community takes time. If you introduce mobile interactivity to your title, readers are not going to immediately reach for their mobiles and start scanning. You need to persuade, encourage and incentive them to do so over time. House Beautiful magazine in the US decided to introduce mobile interactivity to the magazine in 2011 following research that showed that over 90% of the readers had their mobile phone with or next to them when reading. A year later, some advertisers were seeing a five-fold increase in response rates as a result. A UK example: local community magazine Swindon Link has been using a similar approach for four months and has seen scans increase three-fold since the first interactive issue, with a growing number of advertisers adopting the technology in the title.

Secondly, make sure that the content / site to which you link is optimised for mobile. Looking at a desktop website on a four inch phone screen is a frustrating experience at best. In fact, research conducted by Foolproof last year shows that nearly half of consumers have ditched a brand following a poor mobile experience. This doesn’t have to be an overcomplicated and expensive augmented reality production – it is cheap, quick and easy to create simple mobile optimised sites that are specifically designed to encourage readers to engage and respond, as well as load quickly over a mobile network.

Getting readers to scan the pages of your title means that you can then persuade them to buy, Like or Pin stuff, tweet about it, submit or read reviews, look at video and additional images, download vouchers and loads more. That’s the basis for a great community – the more interactions, the more dynamic the community. And, as we all know, an active, dynamic and engaged community translates into rising advertising revenues…

About Linkz: Linkz is a mobile platform that brings print to life by turning advertising and editorial content into a mobile interactive experience, increasing reader response rates and generating additional revenues off the page.

Contact information: Andrew Perry-Smith * * 0843 224 9511 *

Richard Stephenson, CEO of YUDU, writes: A community building strategy should be at the heart of a publisher’s digital strategy, helping to both widen the readership and deepen attachment.

Digital is great at reaching readers at minimal marginal cost but competition is fierce as the reader is only a click away from an alternative choice. Great welcomes fade quickly if the reader isn’t continuously engaged. We belong to clubs just as long as the benefits outweigh the cost of membership. Community management requires a culture of constant gardening.

Through tweeting and sharing, a reader’s ability to engage with content they read online has been made simple. This speed of response and the instant broadcasting to countless millions though social networks is now part of our popular culture. Communications are now not only two way but peer to peer and therefore strategies must reflect this.

New ways to interpret engagement are needed, new “marketing scientists” to analyse and interpret the data. The beauty of digital is that we can monitor what is actually happening on a commercially intimate level, not just rely on surveys.

Communities started by publishers work if they are allowed to develop organically. So the strategy for the publisher is to be a curator of an environment for like-minded people to engage and share experiences. These communities are not walled gardens, they spill out into all parts of the social web. This is still the same community and so presence on popular social media sites is essential. Monetization must be a secondary concern for publishers.

Container architecture within apps was initially conceived with community building at its core. Those who install on their tablet or phone a magazine app have made a decision to engage with the brand. A reader will often subscribe to the magazine but the app should be more useful and engaging. A travel magazine might have live weather feeds, maps or travel information. DIY magazines might have widgets that calculate quantities or convert measurements. Entertainment magazines might have RSS review feeds for films, festivals or links that open in an in-App browser to show the latest restaurants. The publisher must commit to making it an app-centric experience, including feedback and comments from readers.

When a reader sees something they like, sharing should be a click away, automatically clipping what they want to share. The metadata travels with the sharing and can harvest more readers as friends often share similar interests. In return, the reader is willing to share their contact details and sometimes more personal information.

The wider and deeper the engagement, the greater the returns. Container-app architecture forms an important part of this community building process.

About YUDU: YUDU is a well-established developer of multi-platform digital publishing software with more than 500 apps developed for iOS, Android, Windows 8 and the desktop. The YUDU Premier Platform delivers competitive solutions for blue chip multinational clients and magazine publishers who wish to produce interactive high quality publications.

Contact information: Richard Stephenson * * 0207 484 2786 *

The Supplier Q&A is sponsored content.

The question for the September / October issue of InPublishing magazine is, In a time of ‘big data’, what data is critical to publishing success? If you would like to take part, then please contact Martin Maynard.