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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.

Use Direct Mail to Push Trade Show Attendance Ahead of the Pack

After many years of supporting the marketing of trade show and conference managers and exhibitors, AccuList USA can attest to the continued power of direct mail in building audience. While exhibitors who do a pre-show campaign 1-2 months before a show can increase attendance by up to 50%, according to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, a post by the NextPage agency recently explained how direct mail will push those pre-event promotional efforts several steps ahead of competitors.

Make Direct Mail an Engaging, Personalized Invitation

Show marketers looking for an edge with multi-channel audiences will embrace direct mail’s higher response rates and retention rates, urges NextPage, leveraging the deliverability of a tactile and visual attention-getter in an era of crowded digital mailboxes and websites. By combining variable printing with segmented list targeting, savvy marketers can create a pre-event mailing that is highly personalized. Custom shapes and dimensional options, textured paper, intriguing folds, eye-catching graphics and taglines, and more will then help mailings stand out and engage.

Include Incentives That Spur Booth Visits

NextPage also advises including an incentive in the mailer to spur booth visits, such as a raffle ticket or product sample. Creativity pays off, and the blog cites some incentive success stories. For example, trade show expert Marlys Arnold uses scavenger hunts in pre-show campaigns, with a direct mail piece that lists five questions and gives a web address where attendees can print off an answer sheet to fill out and bring to the show. She reports earning satisfying lines at her booths compared with more passive giveaways. In another example, independent copywriter named Mark Johnson wanted to target subscription newsletter marketers at a Las Vegas Conference and created a special website with case studies and a free offer that he touted in a postcard. The free offer was an exclusive 30-minute consultation with Johnson to review current marketing campaigns. Johnson rented the conference association’s membership list and mailed the card only to qualified leads five weeks before the show. Out of 400 pieces mailed, 406 people visited his site, and he generated five solid leads!

Use Targeted Lists of Qualified Prospects

Yet the real key to success with a direct mail campaign is targeting of qualified leads, starting with a list of current clients and prospects and moving on to lists of registered attendees, association members, subscribers to relevant trade publications and newsletters, multi-channel buyers of relevant products, etc.  Marketers can then segment and tailor messaging by geography, industry, product interest, title, firm-ographic data (such as number of employees) to increase response.

For more direct mail advice, see the blog post.

Performing Arts Boosted by Social Video Ticketing Partnerships

AccuList USA’s performing arts marketing clients have more tools this year for reaching ticket buyers, fans and supporters via partnerships that link online ticketing and social media videos.

Using Social Video Pages to Sell Tickets

The latest entry in the competitive social media ticketing race is Google-owned YouTube, which has partnered with Ticketmaster to show viewers upcoming U.S. tour dates and nearby concert listings on artists’ YouTube videos and then allow viewers to jump directly to Ticketmaster to purchase tickets. YouTube is actually a latecomer to the social media ticketing world. Ticketmaster started promoting ticket sales on Spotify and Facebook in 2016. YouTube’s end-of-2017 move is one reaction to Spotify’s growth in the streaming market with integrated data and artist information. For Ticketmaster, its global roster of concerts and lock on the concert-ticket industry can only be enhanced by access to YouTube’s 1.5 billion user base, driving more fans to pay Ticketmaster prices and service charges. But competitive social video ticketing is a win for performing arts promotion, too.

Why It’s Good News for Performing Arts

YouTube is leveraging one of its strengths with the ticketing partnership; music videos account for 30% of all time spent on YouTube and represent 94% of the 250 most-viewed videos on the platform, per the Video Advertising Bureau. And that means performing arts promotions can look forward to generating additional ticket sales from the platform’s added feature. The YouTube ticketing feature also addresses a running feud between YouTube and the recording industry. Some record labels have argued that YouTube hasn’t paid enough in fees for music videos hosted on its platform, but now ticket sales will provide another revenue stream for labels to monetize and boost royalties. This kind of partnership may even help cut down on the sales drain from pirating since the increased ability to monetize videos via ticket sales is likely to push performing arts promotion to drive as much traffic as possible to official videos and to be more proactive in flagging unofficial channels. (See the story in Direct Marketing News.)

New Tech Energizes Trade Show & Conference Marketing

AccuList USA has long experience in helping trade show and conference marketers with targeted lists and data services. But we also support an expanded event marketing approach that goes beyond promotion to engage audiences at every touchpoint in a multi-channel world, as a recent post for the Trade Show News Network (TSNN) blog promotes. Luckily, that is easier than ever thanks to emerging event technology trends.

Social Amplification & Content Digitization

Any event pro not using social media to the fullest is missing a key tool in building audience per TSNN’s “Top 10 Tech Trends” by Matt Coyne, Technology Engagement Architect at GES EMEA and a 10-year veteran of the events and exhibitions industry. By making it easy for registrants to share their attendance with their own social media networks, marketers can amplify an event and reach new potential attendees that can’t be reached directly.  Social media can also work in tandem with traditional channels, as with our Digital2Direct tool matching postal records to Facebook users for targeted social ads. Just as important as the boost in registrations is the increase in registration-to-attendee conversion driven by social media engagement, Coyne adds. Digitized content is then the engagement tool that creates an interactive event experience, building repeat attendance and luring prospects via social sharing. For example, Coyne cites the growth of devices like “Smart Badges,” which act as a digital briefcase for attendees to collect digitized content. And tools like Facebook Live increase the dissemination and sharing of digital content.

Gamification, AI, and Selected Apps

Digitized content also can be leveraged with gamification to increase event participation, say by awarding points for Smart Badge usage with exhibitor contacts, speaker downloads, session attendance, etc. and then posting competitive results. Event planners can then help boost participation at less popular sites and activities by boosting their points. AI is another way to help expand attendee experiences; an example is the use of chatbot software to answer attendee questions and offer learned guidance. Finally, there are event-specific apps. Although Coyne provocatively declares apps “dead,” he really means that cost-effective use of apps today must be selective. Not every event needs to spend for an app, but a large conference can benefit from an app that enables visitors to track their schedules or from a dedicated lead-capture app.

Facial Recognition: Security & Feedback

Facial recognition software has recently been in the news, and Coyne sees it as a future boon for some trade shows and conferences. Consider how facial recognition at high-security events could decrease the hassle of on-site screening requiring multiple forms of ID, creation of photo IDs, and so on. Plus, facial recognition software that can recognize emotion could also be used inside halls and conference rooms to get real-time feedback from attendees, and thus a chance for planners to react and improve audience experience, Coyne suggests.

For more of Coyne’s tech trends, see the full blog post.

 

Arts Marketers Need Digital CTAs That Drive Subscriptions

While direct mail continues to be a sturdy workhorse for AccuList USA’s performing arts marketing clients, digital campaigns–via online display ads, e-mail and social media–are required in a multi-channel world. Digital subscription drives offer cost-effectiveness, off-season branding, audience segment targeting, and synergy with direct mail. (Check out our Digital2Direct program to see we help mate mail with e-mail and social media ads.)  But with more competition for attention in the crowded digital space and with less room for persuasion than “snail mail,” digital promotion success is especially dependent on a well-designed and targeted call-to-action, as pointed out in a recent blog post by strategists at MogoARTS, a digital marketing agency for arts and cultural organizations.

Customizing CTA by Audience

An effective call-to-action will differ by targeting, the post points out. With renewals, the targets are lists of current season subscribers, so the CTA messaging can be direct and should highlight an incentive like a discount or savings for renewing early or by a deadline. For acquiring new members or reactivating lapsed subscribers, targeting includes lists of previous season ticket buyers and e-mail opt-in prospects, who need to be shown the benefits of subscription (or reminded). The CTA messaging for lapsed subscribers and multi-ticket buyers should give a reason to come back or upgrade to a subscription by promoting package savings or special benefits, such as free parking or early access to add-ons. CTAs to entice new members will need to spell out subscriber benefits, either across ad units or on a landing page, and showcase varied package options.

Tips on CTA Creative

The blog post also lists some CTA creative suggestions for arts marketers, whether the decision is to leverage programning/events or benefits to drive action. In pushing benefits in digital ads, listing one benefit per banner maximizes message impact and avoids overcrowding with too much text; patrons will see multiple banners over the life of the campaign after all. If the decision is to push programming, then other formats such as video or Facebook/Instagram News Feed Carousel ads may spark greater engagement than a static ad.

General CTA Best Practices

MogoARTS cites three best practices for any CTA: 1) customization for the different audience types, meaning renewing, lapsed or new members; 2) emphasis on the benefits of a subscription package over a single ticket purchase; and 3) highlighting of the savings/special rewards available for subscribing now. For CTA examples, see https://www.mogoartsmarketing.com/blog/subscription-campaign-best-practices-2018

Why Direct Mail Still Wins Allegiance of Trade Show Marketers

One of AccuList USA’s oldest areas of expertise is trade show and conference marketing, particularly direct mail lists and support services. A recent survey of exhibit managers and event marketers by Exhibitor magazine shows why direct mail continues as a promotional tool, as a companion rather than a victim of the growing use of e-mail and social media. Here are some insights we gleaned from those comments:

It’s Still All About the List

The traditional rules of direct marketing continue to apply for direct mail success: Quality, targeted data is the most essential response factor. Mike Naples, business alliance manager for the United States Postal Service, reminds event marketers of those basics: “A successful campaign is 60% identifying the target, 30% making a compelling offer, and 10% creating a unique piece.” Dan McAdams, vice president of sales and marketing for McAdams Graphics, is even more specific:  “The most effective direct-mail projects start with a solid mailing list. A bad list yields a bad return.”

E-mail Is Mate, Not Replacement, for Snail Mail

While acknowledging the growing use of e-mail, Holly Seese, global marketing communications manager at Celanese Corp., reminds Exhibitor readers that “hard-copy event invites are still more memorable than e-mailed ones.” That can be especially true with an older target audience. “People over the age of 50 have an emotional attachment to letters that people under the age of 50 never developed,” opines Keith Goodman, vice president for corporate solutions at Modern Postcard. More generally, e-mail faces headwinds in crowded, spam-filtered inboxes, while direct mail’s lower volume actually boosts its impact: “Direct mail is back in vogue because few companies are using it. So a creative mailer is more likely to get read,” explains Eugene Maresh, co-owner of Say it With Style Targeted Promotional Solutions. Or as Joy Gendusa, CEO of PostcardMania, sums up: “E-mail is brilliant for lead nurturing, but not for lead generation. If your message is seen as spam, you’re hurting, not helping.”

Creativity and a Multi-Channel Mix Required

At the same time, audiences have become more demanding. Direct mail must be personalized, relevantly targeted and creatively eye-catching to engage response now. Tired tricks are not going to win interest. “An interesting shape is the best way to generate attention. Priority or overnight mail doesn’t cut it anymore. It feels wasteful,” asserts Rhea Cook, president of Ex Machina Design X Marketing. And because audiences also use multiple digital channels daily, they expect to engage with coordinated event promotion and response across channels, so direct mail can’t go it alone if it is to be successful. Or as Jefferson Davis, trade show marketing and sales consultant at Competitive Edge, concludes: “People ask me all the time, ‘What is the single best media for exhibit marketing?’ But there is no single best media. The magic is in the mix.”

To see more quotes about direct mail from event marketing pros, go to http://www.exhibitoronline.com/topics/article.asp?ID=1282 

Millennial Attendees Reshape Event Success Strategies

As the millennial cohort expands event attendance, trade show and conference marketing clients, as well as performing arts marketing clients, with AccuList USA are beginning to change their targeting, messaging and event planning strategies to cater to a demographic that demands technological multi-channel savvy, interest-specific targeting, and experiential and interactive content. A recent post by UK-based Conference News highlights three strategies that event professionals can adopt to woo the millennial audience.

Offering Multiple Connection Points

While millennials are known for their social media, mobile-phone-addicted personae, studies show that these digital preferences can actually fuel greater live event interest; Conference News cites one survey showing 73% of millennials consider live event attendance as a way to express their beliefs and personality online. But it also means that event planners need to take cues from their digital experiences. Since millennials flock to online platforms that offer a nexus of various interests and connectivity, an event that focuses too narrowly can misfire. Conference News argues for a “multi-faceted event” and cites North Carolina’s Moogfest as an example. Moogfest is primarily a music festival, but, in 2016, it added a stage for workshops, installations and discussions of the current political climate. By combining art, activism, food/drink, and activities in one place, it addressed attendees’ multiple passions and created more social media fodder and buzz at the same time.

Playing With Non-Traditional Venues

Meeting the millennial demand for a multi-faceted event experience can require going beyond hotel conference rooms and exhibit spaces. In 2017, the demand for non-traditional spaces rose by 3.8%, notes the article. The right non-traditional venue will be a site that generates interest in itself while still providing comfort and meeting attendee requirements. Although on-site logistics may be more challenging, more event pros are betting that this venue creativity pays off in attracting and retaining audience.

Investing in Event Technology

Millennials are technically savvy and expect technically savvy event support. The Conference News article cites three event technology ideas likely to gain ground this year: 1) RFID (radio-frequency identification) wristbands, long in music festival usage, can work in other event milieus to speed up entry lines and to allow purchases without cash or cards; 2) Mobile Event Apps can let attendees craft customized experiences via eased navigation, personalized schedules, push notifications about upcoming activities, and social sharing with other attendees; and 3) Artificial Intelligence (AI) not only means chat bots to answer attendee questions but, in coordination with social-media-based event app info, can generate personalized on-site recommendations. See the complete article at http://www.conference-news.co.uk/blogs-features/top-3-event-trends-explore-2018

2018 Offers New Growth Opportunities for Publishing Marketers

There’s no doubt that AccuList USA’s business and consumer publishing clients face some pivotal audience- and revenue-building challenges in both print and digital marketing, but there are also growth opportunities in 2018. We note three potential positives recently highlighted by Publishing Executive magazine.

Quality Content Over Free Content

Audiences are increasing their demand for quality content, and advertisers are seeking publishers who can deliver that quality. There is a lot of untapped revenue potential for publishers who commit to quality, especially since the free-information era is ending as readers become wary of free but low-value content and increasingly willing to pay for reliable quality. For digital publishers, the downside of a shift to paid quality content can be a shrinkage of circulation, forcing them to balance potential gains in subscription revenue against lower page-views for ads. The Publishing Executive article offers various mitigating tactics: leaky paywalls; metered paywalls; charging only for premium content; allowing only paid subscribers to comment or participate in an online community; early access to certain articles for paid subscribers; access to paywalled content for subscription to a free newsletter, etc.

It’s All About Niches

With consumer access to vast amounts of information spewing into print, online, media and social every day, mass-market-oriented print and digital publications have been struggling, and niche publishers proliferating. Readers want to focus on what’s relevant to their specific interests, and many advertisers want to reach the right pool of people more than just the largest pool of people. The trick for publications is to embrace niche demand without sacrificing too much circulation. The Publishing Executive article offers some suggestions. Digital publications can create a product-within-a-product on the website, for example, with content targeted to a subset of the normal audience and attractive to new sponsors who want to reach that specific audience. For print publications, there are niche-targeted inserts, bonus sections, customized covers, polybagged special reports, or ad packages that combine a full-page ad in the magazine with a more in-depth cover wrap or insert for a special event or audience.

Demand for Brand Safety Grows

Brand advertisers have become concerned about aligning with publishers who tolerate fake news, violence, extremism, or other offensive content. The Association of Magazine Media recognized the danger and the opportunity in 2017 and released an ad campaign (“Better. Believe it.”) to highlight magazines’ quality content and brand safety. This means that respected publishers can court advertising revenue (and circulation) in 2018 by stressing brand quality and safety in their promotions. On that point, Publishing Executive quotes from an Advertising Age piece in which Shelagh Daly Miller of AARP declared: “Only when brands partner with reputable publishers can they have full confidence in where their ads are being placed. That’s a message that should be all over our industry’s media kits. And tattooed onto the foreheads of our ad reps.”

For more on publishing growth opportunities in 2018, read http://www.pubexec.com/post/6-growth-opportunities-publishers-2018/