Craft Beer & Brewing Quickly Grows Audience with Quality Content and Production
This interview is a part of a larger feature documenting some of the most exciting magazine launches and relaunches of the past two years. Click here to view more interviews with publishers of newly launched or relaunched titles.
Magazines are a reflection of our culture, and new launches are perhaps some of the best indicators of how that culture is changing. The launch of Craft Beer & Brewing in March 2014 is a response to a burgeoning movement that has led to the number of U.S. breweries doubling in the past five years. Riding this wave of malt and hops, the magazine has increased circulation by 30% each issue (now at 33,000) and attracts 100,000 monthly visitors to its site.
Founders Jamie Bogner and John P. Bolton, creative officer and publisher, respectively, launched CB&B to serve all segments of the craft beer market, from enthusiasts who enjoy craft beer to professionals that brew for a living. The first brand to bridge these audiences, CB&B strives to present brewing news and education in a fashion that is interesting to the non-brewer and helpful to the professional. Below Bolton describes how attention to quality content and design in all of CB&B's products has earned the brand a loyal following.
How did you build up an audience so quickly?
We built up our newsletter audience through sweepstakes. We created an all-expense trip to Colorado for brewery tours and we got over 15,000 entries in a two-month period. When participants entered, one of the conditions was to subscribe to the newsletter. That helped us build our newsletter list quite rapidly and gave us the ability to market to those people going forward.
Social media also played a huge role early on. In February, before we even launched our magazine, we did a post on our website, "Beer Pairings for Girl Scout Cookies." We put it on Facebook and all the sudden our website crashed. Apparently the post went viral on Facebook and we got 400,000 shares in a seven-day period. That was really fortuitous.
We try to take an approach to our social media that is informative but slightly edgy. Something that people would want to share. Social media really helped the website traffic get off the ground.
What's your revenue strategy?
Unlike a lot of publishers that rely on advertising revenue for their success, we rely on a multi-pronged approach. We create a high quality product -- whether that is a magazine or online education or newsletters or books -- that people are willing to pay for. Our revenue streams are really from consumers.
We also sell through independent home brew shops. We're in Whole Foods, Barnes & Nobles, and all the major supermarket chains. We sell direct to consumer. We sell to the advertisers. We also have sponsorship revenue from online. We try to have each revenue stream equate somewhere between 20-30% of our total revenue. That to me is a safer way than putting all your eggs in the advertising bucket.
Can you describe CB&B's online education?
We just launched our online classes in May. Every month we're putting two more brewing classes on our education platform. We sell them a-la-carte or by subscription, which costs $15 a month. Most of the content will be geared to home brewers, but we will have content for [professional] brewers too.
The classes are made up of multiple media, from slideshow to video, and you can take them at your own leisure. They are not live courses, but if users have questions, they can ask us and we will respond within 24 business hours.
What are some editorial or design decisions that define CB&B?
Our most expensive competitor magazine is $6.99. We came into the marketplace at $9.99. We made some risky decisions in creating a higher price product that is high quality. We have high quality paper, high quality production, and all original photography. We contract with the best contributors in the industry. Consumers need to perceive value in the product, and if they don't, they won't pay anything let alone $6.99. As a result, even though we're more expensive, our sell-through is higher than most of our competitors.
What's next for CB&B?
We'll continue to do what we're doing but more of it. We want to do more issues. We want to do some SIPs on craft beer and food pairings, which is very popular. We'll do more online education and more videos. In 2015 we will be launching some events, which is crucial to our success in the craft beer industry.
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