E-Media Strategist: Why Are You Publishing Online?
Are you able to answer the following questions off the top of your head? Why do you have a Web site? What is the purpose of your e-mail newsletter? These seem like simple enough questions, but for some reason, they're incredibly hard for many publishers to answer - or, at least, it's hard to answer them well. And, those companies that have difficulty answering these questions are usually the same ones with lackluster online media businesses.
Online media, just like print, must serve a reader need that cannot be fulfilled in the same way by someone else. It's the golden progression of a successful media business: Deliver content that helps readers do their jobs (business-to-business) or helps them fulfill their passions/personal interests (business-to-consumer); aggregate an audience around that content; then sell advertising or market your own products to that audience to generate revenue. Way too often, however, we skip the first part and launch a Web site or e-newsletter that has no real value for the reader. It's a house of cards.
Recently, a couple of editors contacted me - let's say they were with Acme Magazine (forgive the Looney Tunes reference). They wanted to know why the open rate on their e-newsletter was so poor (13 percent) and what they could do about it. Despite its imperfections, open rate is a very good indicator of how important your e-mail newsletter is to your readers. If it's really important to them, I have seen e-newsletter open rates average 40 percent to 50 percent or even higher. An open rate under 25 percent is a real indicator that your e-newsletter has problems. I had three questions for the Acme editors:
What is the editorial mission of the e-newsletter? Answer: "We send out updates of things that are happening on our Web site ... new products, previews of the upcoming magazine, upcoming webinars and highlights from our discussion forums. We don't have a big staff and do what we need to do to get it done."
Eric Shanfelt is the founding partner of Nearview Media, a consulting firm that helps publishers with their digital revenue, audience and platform development. Eric is a 25-year digital media veteran and has been the Chief Digital Officer for several large publishing companies. You can reach Eric at firstname.lastname@example.org.