Increasing Consumers' Awareness of Digital Editions
In an effort to increase consumer awareness and use of digital reading alternatives, The Read Green Initiative was launched last week by Zinio, an online publishing and distribution services company. Through this initiative, Zinio has teamed with its existing publishing partners, including Bonnier and Greenspun Media, to offer consumers free annual subscriptions to the digital versions of more than 200 publications. Visitors to GoReadGreen.com may also purchase additional digital-edition subscriptions on the Web site.
According to Zinio, The Read Green Initiative also was inspired by increased efforts by publishing-industry leaders to improve the environmental performance of magazines. "Our research has shown that one of the main reasons consumers enjoy reading digital magazines is because they feel like they are doing something good for the environment," says Rich Maggiotto, president and CEO of Zinio.com. "The Read Green Initiative will support and embrace this consumer interest as well as introduce the public to a medium that responds to their needs, without affecting the bottom line." A portion of the proceeds for all sales made on GoReadGreen.com will be redeemed in exchange for eco-unit credits that will contribute to the "greening" of school and university campuses, through the planting of trees, to commemorate Earth Day 2009.
Maggiotto recently spoke with Publishing Executive Inbox about how The Read Green Initiative was developed and his goals for the campaign.
Inbox: What is The Read Green Initiative? How does it work?
Rich Maggiotto: The Read Green Initiative is an evolutionary, new program conceived by Zinio. It is designed to increase the consumer awareness and use of digital reading alternatives. Many of the most pre-eminent publishers in the space, such as US News & World Report, Readers' Digest, Bonnier and Greenspun Media, have teamed up with Zinio to globally offer 50 million free, annual subscriptions to the digital versions of over 200 publications through The Read Green Initiative. Anyone can visit GoReadGreen.com and choose the magazine they love. Within three clicks, the digital version of that magazine is automatically delivered directly to their desktop for the next 12 months at no cost.
Our hope is that it will inspire people to enjoy reading digitally. If they like the experience, they can come back to the site, or to Zinio.com and purchase additional magazines (either annual subscriptions, single issues or back issues). For the GoReadGreen.com effort, a portion of the proceeds of all sales are being redeemed for eco-unit credits that contribute to tree-planting efforts at schools around Earth Day 2009.
Inbox: How did the idea for The Read Green Initiative develop?
Maggiotto: The initiative was a concept that fit both the circulation-growth requirement [of the digital editions] and the need for consumers to feel like they are doing something good for the environment, both without affecting the bottom line. It was an easy decision for us.
The Read Green Initiative was inspired based on two unique trends in media ... . First, we were seeing that reading publications digitally was growing at triple-digit rates year over year, but most mainstream consumers still were unaware of the reading alternative. For that reason, we hoped that this effort would speed up adoption.
Secondly, research conducted in late 2007 indicated that, for the first time, one of the growing reason people were choosing a digital publication over print was because of a perceived positive environmental impact. While the entire publishing industry has initiated a number of efforts to improve the ecological impact of magazine printing and distribution, primarily led by the [Magazine Publishers Association], we wanted to build on that momentum.
Inbox: How long will the Read Green Initiative run? What are your goals for the program?
Maggiotto: Right now, the program is set to run for at least a year, definitely through Earth Day of next year and beyond. Our goals are: to raise consumer awareness of digital reading; to help consumers feel like they are doing something beneficial for the environment; and to provide our publisher partners with the opportunities to expand their audience, grow their brands, and usher in the golden age of publishing through this collective and groundbreaking effort.
Inbox: What was the process from when the idea was initially conceived to last week when the program was introduced? What went on behind the scenes in creating this program?
Maggiotto: The process went through several stages: ... We did a series of consumer testing and validation. Everything we saw pointed to a program peaked with successes. Next, we reached out to publishers and were so excited to see significant interest in the concept. Participating publishers recognized the opportunity for growth and additional brand impact.
Next, we planned our longer term efforts and a way that this program could give back to the community. While we are not publicizing it widely right now, we are extremely excited about our 2009 tree-planting outreach effort. Stay tuned for details on that program. ...
Inbox: What was the response from publishers to the idea? Were all of the publishers participating in the initiative already using Zinio for their digital editions?
Maggiotto: All of the publishers who are current participants in The Read Green Initiative have existing relationships with Zinio to sell their digital editions. The response was overwhelmingly positive from the publishers that we approached, and we heard a myriad of reasons why publishers were so supportive. Here are just some: Publishers were eager to be a part of the leading generation and conversion; they wanted to grow their audience; they wanted to improve their readership metrics; they wanted the exposure; and they embraced the "green" angle. Bea Hanks, vice president/circulation director from Black Enterprise magazine, even spoke at our press kick-off.
Inbox: If a publisher has not previously worked with Zinio and would like to participate in The Read Green Initiative, how would they get involved?
Maggiotto: Just contact Zinio by calling 1-888-ZINIO-NOW. It's that simple. As a publisher, one of the benefits of having a relationship with Zinio is that you will have many powerful channels, such as The Read Green Initiative, through which to grow your brand. We are constantly seeking new publishing relationships, and we would be happy to meet with any publisher who is interested in working with us.
Inbox: How are you getting the word out to consumers about this program?
Maggiotto: The unique thing about this program launch is that it is all being done ... virally through a word-of-mouth and social-networking campaign, which includes active involvement on sites like Gather.com, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. In addition, we are working with some large consumer-facing press outlets and on stories about the program. We also have a strong blog presence.
... There are not any real paid search efforts, or online banners supporting this program yet. We believe that The Read Green Initiative will be a success when consumers embrace it and feel so passionately about it that they spread the word.