Industry, Marketing Trends Help Grow Printed Business Publications

New print publishing trends and innovative marketing options offer good news for AccuList’s many business periodical clients seeking to boost subscribers and advertising.

Printed Business Magazines Are Alive & Well in the Digital Age

The growth of digital readership has not doomed all printed periodicals to declining circulation and revenues, as some predicted. In fact, a recent What’s New in Publishing article cites multiple ways print magazines are adapting for growth. For example, publishers are focusing on niche audiences willing to pay more for a higher grade product and cutting down on frequency. Consider the Harvard Business Review: It grew its subscriber base 10% by reducing print frequency from 10 issues to 6 a year and using smart positioning, creative new digital benefits, and heavier investment in the quality of the six print issues to increase audience appeal. Printed information is also seen as more reliable by readers and advertisers, according to research, creating a “halo effect” for business publishers with a print edition. “The good news for printed business magazines is that their credibility has a halo effect on their websites, too, which gives them a competitive advantage over digital-only competitors. People may be buying fewer magazines, but they still associate them with quality and reliability,” explains the publishing industry’s Dead Tree Edition blog. Plus, despite fears that younger business readers were turning mainly to digital sources and social media for information, publishers can take advantage of continued print readership popularity. For example, the Association of Magazine Media’s “Magazine Media Factbook 2018-2019″ shows that, in the United States, “the top 25 print magazines reach more adults and teens than the top 25 prime time shows.”

Business Publishers Can Leverage New Marketing Trends

New print technologies and a revival of traditional marketing tools offer business periodicals options for boosting audience and advertiser appeal. A recent article from media agency Mediaspace Solutions cites some ideas that publishers can leverage. With the digital space crowded, noisy and less trusted by potential readers, direct mail campaigns have increased in effectiveness, the post notes. Plus, many publishers have returned to sending printed newsletters to subscribers. Print technologies (QR codes, augmented reality, etc.) are not only tools for better direct mail response but also a way to attract print advertisers by boosting print advertising effectiveness, the post points out. For example, augmented print uses an application that stacks digital content over a print ad so that when the print ad is scanned by a smartphone, a new digital ad springs to life. Personalization is a must in today’s marketing, and business publishers can combine list segmentation and targeting with variable data printing to personalize direct mail campaigns for audience building. Plus, subscriber list segmentation can be offered to print advertisers to help them craft more targeted messages. For more ideas, see the Mediaspace Solutions post.

Digital Data Feed Publishers’ Subscription Growth

AccuList helps business periodicals grow audience via direct marketing, and, as always, good customer and prospect data is at the root of marketing success. Consider a case study from The Economist, named one of the eight best business magazines of 2019 by The Balance reviewers. It isn’t only content that makes The Economist stand out. It’s a data-based audience-building strategy that has quadrupled subscription revenue over the last three years.

Customer Data and Predictive Analytics

Facing challenges in growing subscriber and advertising revenue, The Economist contracted with a customer data platform, Lytics, to shift from a print-focused to a digital subscription strategy based on customer data management, per a recent What’s New in Publishing (WNIP) post. For example, the publisher used data analytics to create content hubs, or individual pages that display digital content based on a reader’s interest for particular news topics. Tactics also included displaying offers based on the reader’s subscription status and predictive engagement score, meaning their likelihood to subscribe, derived from other readers with behaviors like theirs. And the online Economist gave readers featured content based not just on topic interest but also on behavioral scoring so readers got the type of content they wanted in the way they wanted to read it. Yet another example was a campaign for a free “Back to School Megatech” eBook, that produced a 9% click-through rate for targeted audiences.

Payoffs in Acquisition and Retention

In addition to a 4X bump in The Economist‘s subscriber revenue, the data-centric effort decreased cost per acquisition by 80%, tripled digital subscriptions, and increased time-on-site and engagement measures, per the WNIP case study post. The development of ongoing and adaptive customer profiles using machine learning went beyond simple demographics to allow for individually tailored and timed advertising and engagement strategies, such as predicting when a reader is more receptive to certain kinds of advertising or content. Retention strategies also were improved by predicting when subscribers were likely to stop visiting or subscribing.

Leveraging Data and Content for Growth

The Economist is not alone in embracing a digital subscription and data-management publishing model. The New York Times used similar strategies to boost digital subscriptions and revenues last year, even creating nytDEMO (DEMO stands for data, engineering, measurement, and optimization) as a collaboration among members of The Times data, product & design, technology, and advertising groups. The nytDEMO team offers brand marketers AI-based data tools such as “Project Feels” predicting emotional response to content and “Readerscope” identifying reader/interest audience segments. While other print and digital news operations were cutting back in 2018, The New York Times Co. used data-driven strategies to generate more than $709 million in digital revenue, with online subscription revenue up nearly 18% from 2017 and digital advertising up 8.6%. Out of its 4.3 million paid subscriptions for digital and print in 2018, more than 3.3 million people paid for its digital products, a 27% jump from 2017. Those results prompted executives to set a new target of more than 10 million subscriptions by 2025. And since NYT execs believe successful data marketing relies on quality content marketing, the revenue gains will be plowed back into content development via increased investment in newsroom and opinion operations.

 

Business Periodicals Retain Digital & Print Influence

A recent blog post from B2B marketing agency Weidert argues that trade publications remain vital to B2B marketing, which should be encouraging news for AccuList USA’s many business periodical marketing clients. Whether online or in print, trade magazines retain reputation and authority with their vertical audiences, and many people trust information from these niche publications more than any other source, says Weidert blog author Tammy Borden.

Digital Offsets Print Declines for Trade Pubs

Borden notes that while circulation and ad spending for printed magazines may have dipped, digital editions are thriving. That contention is borne out by the latest PwC ad spending forecast, which sees an upward five-year path for trade magazine ad revenues from 2018 to 2022, albeit slight at 0.6%. The overall positive trend is because digital ad growth (9.3%) will offset print losses (-8.4%). In fact, PwC predicts that the digital ad spend will overtake print spending this year.

Digital Audiences on a Growth Path

Borden cites the multiple attractions of digital trade publications for business marketers, such as a growing readership: According to the 2018 Mequoda Magazine Consumer Study, 42.4% of U.S. adults read at least one digital magazine per month — a 15% increase in three years. Plus, there are also now digital magazine marketplaces like Magzter and Zinio that allow readers to access thousands of B2B trade titles in one place, further expanding audience reach.  For content marketers, digital content in business magazines is especially appealing because it can not only link to websites but can be SEO-optimized to leverage online impact.

Printed Business Magazines Retain Clout

Despite the growth of online readership and content, Borden still touts the marketing value of printed trade periodicals. She points to a survey finding that more than 32% subscribe to one or two print magazines compared with only 18% for digital publications. Plus, the print version of a publication (like direct mail) offers a richer sensory experience (visual and tactile) and a shelf life unmatched by digital. With the option to place advertising or content in both print and digital versions of a respected business periodical, marketers can maximize audience preferences and reach.

Check out the overall PwC media advertising outlook.

Many Business Publications Fail to Fully Mine Audience Data

Business periodical marketers come to AccuList USA for help with audience building via multi-channel campaigns. But as data experts, we’d like to remind them that their audience data offers other revenue streams worth mining. Most publishers know that targeted audience data is key to competing for ad dollars; for improved subscriber response via personalization; and for better targeted content marketing, but a recent Adweek article by Jason Downie suggests several other ways to monetize audience data.

Building Valuable Off-the-Shelf Audience Segments

Downie urges publishers to build “off-the-shelf” audience segments that can be sold directly to advertisers, for example. Consider how a seminar promoter could use a business magazine’s data if the publication built an audience of people interested specifically in his topics or proven seminar buyers; the advertiser would be able to enjoy the benefits of tapping not just a business-engaged audience but a strategically targeted set of potential buyers more likely to convert. By creating off-the-shelf audience segments, the publication offers more options for ad clients and more targeted impressions from high-value users. Audience segments can also offer insights that can be further monetized. For example, analytics could show that seminar attendees are four times more likely to share content online. That makes them online influencers, and since influencers are extremely valuable, the publisher can demand a higher CPM. Additionally, an audience segment can open the door to new advertisers and marketers, including non-endemic spending. A business publisher’s analytics may show a subscriber segment visits golf sites as well as the magazine site, for example. The publisher can now woo clients looking to target “golfers.”

Using Data to Win RFPs

Another way publishers can take advantage of data is in the RFP process, according to the Adweek article, noting that the average publisher spends up to 1,600 hours per month, or 18% of revenue, responding to advertiser RFPs. Publishers can develop a customized response to an advertiser RFP, starting with first-party data to build out the RFP-requested audience and then enriching that database with third-party data appending. Digital campaigns can expand targeting by adding lookalikes. Author Downie advises running a portion of an ad campaign without audience or contextual targeting to identify additional audiences, interests, actions and behaviors of those who respond well to the campaign but were not included in the initial targeting.

Turning Data Into New Revenue Streams

Another option for publishers with high-quality audience data is to sell it as “second-party data.”  The data can be sold either directly to another company through a second-party data exchange or through a programmatic data exchange. Second-party exchanges are popular because they are private marketplaces one-to-one with another company, versus an open environment. And, of course, subscriber lists can be monetized as “third-party data,” earning regular rental revenue on the open market and via data brokers. For more detail, see the full article.