7 Ways City & Regional Publishers Are Growing Their Business
The mood at the recent City and Regional Magazine Association Annual Conference in Denver was upbeat and cautiously optimistic that business was improving with much of the focus on new business development. Here are some of the ways that city and regional publishers are driving new revenue for their businesses.
Nonprofit Partnerships Are on the Rise
Nonprofits can equal big profits for publishers while providing greater reach and access to new donors for the charitable organizations. Through special issues, custom publishing, and events, publishers are developing mutually beneficial opportunities to partner with local nonprofits. By partnering on events, publishers can generate new sponsorship dollars while nonprofits generate new donations and increase awareness. Sometimes the nonprofit will kick in sponsorship dollars in return for exposure in the magazine and its other assets, an opportunity to speak at the event, and the knowledge they will recoup some of the investment through the new funds raised at the event. Nonprofits are obligated to demonstrate community outreach about its mission in order to maintain its 501C-3 designation, so they have to spend the money somewhere. It may as well be with us.
In Detroit, Sarasota, and Pittsburgh, they are printing annual stand-alone publications under the Give moniker. These magazines showcase organizations, leaders, and other charitable endeavors within the local philanthropic community and consolidate it in one special-issue magazine. Publishers generate revenue with sponsorship as well as a pay-to-play profile section, similar to Top Doctors issues. With this opportunity, a nonprofit can buy a spread where the left page is a formatted ad highlighting their mission, services provided, leadership, and events. The right page is a display ad for their organization. This feeds into a growing trend of vanity plays where the people behind a business are in the spotlight in lieu of a product or service. There is no shortage of people who want their name or face in a magazine and will pay for the privilege.
Custom Publishing Is Worth the Investment
Custom publishing is enjoying a renaissance for those who are pursuing these opportunities, but not many are. There didn't seem to be a lack of interest, but a lack of resources for some crews who are already spread thin. This is a common theme for many titles where there seems to be a lack of willingness to invest in adding more people to pursue new business opportunities and instead wringing every ounce of productivity out of an existing team.
The publishers who are pursuing custom publishing partnerships are generating new revenue by leveraging their expertise and infrastructure as well as lower print and mailing costs. Nonprofits are a great source for these partnerships. One example is working with a local museum that publishes an annual program. A publishing company provides industry expertise and skills, along with lower production and distribution costs, while polybagging the program with its subscriber magazines. With the difference in production costs and added exposure, the nonprofit has an incentive to redirect those savings toward a paid ad in the magazine. Event programs are also proving a successful source of custom publishing opportunities.
Advertisers Are Looking for Marketing Services
Interest in digital advertising is growing quickly. Clients mostly recognize the need to modernize their marketing efforts; only they don't have the reach, infrastructure, or knowledge of how to use email, mobile, social media, or the web to create a complete multimedia campaign. This is where a magazine can leverage its expertise and reach. Many magazines have their sales team selling multimedia packages and are monetizing social media elements instead of including them as the dreaded "added value" line items. Hudson Valley Magazine even has one person dedicated solely to selling digital media. Despite this interest many magazines are unsure how to maximize social media for themselves, never mind for a client. Many in the business are still figuring out the nuances to these platforms, which seem to constantly evolve.
Events Remain a Lucrative Business
Events are still a hot topic and of great interest to most city and regional publishers, but again a lack of internal resources are keeping many from pursuing the revenue stream. New Orleans Magazine is all in with more than 30 events planned for the year. Events range from small happy hours or grand openings to draw customers to a new business to larger events such as fundraisers for profits, beer festivals, and more. Events are a profitable business but require experienced staffing for coordination and marketing them. Many marketing people are also doing double duty as event coordinators.
Data Reveals New Revenue Opportunities
Personalization and getting to know your audience is key. The push is toward researching your customer base via tools like Epsilon's Abacus data-mining, or HubSpot's Marketing Automation based on behavioral intelligence of audience lists. Publishers are also using Facebook to market to very specific groups based on their capabilities to drill down to a very targeted audience. Using these tools you can get to know your audience more clearly to uncover new opportunities, both for audience development and sales and to push the right message to the right people.
Direct Mail Alive And Well
Another point made at the annual conference was that while it's true that direct mail in the sense of bulk impersonal mailings might be dead, good old-fashioned snail mail is still the most successful way to grow your subscriber base. The key is to be creative, get very specific when choosing your audience, make the piece as personal as possible, and test, test, test. It's also useful to piggy-back it with other channels -- emails before/after the mailing, social media posts to announce the piece that's on its way, etc.
Innovation Is Key
There were also many stories of how city and regional publishers are thinking outside of the box. A few examples are happy hours with people who are new to the neighborhood, to introduce the brand as soon as they join the market, hosting grand openings for developments to connect with potential new residents, and partnering with local broadcast companies to reach subscribers who love philanthropy and the arts. Publishers also discussed clever campaigns to re-engage inactives on an email list as well as using Snapchat and Facebook Live to give subscribers a behind-the-scenes view of publishing and connect like never before.
Many ideas and proven concepts were shared during the three-day event with a clear an indication that creativity and diversification will be necessary for a publishing company to thrive during this continued transitional period in our industry.
Ron Matejko is the President of Phoenix, Ariz.-based MVP Media, an award-winning digital publishing company. Matejko has 16 years of publishing experience in print, Web and mobile and has worked on the staff of two award-winning publications.
MVP Media publishes MVP Magazine, the first interactive sports publication, which won a Bronze 2010 Digital Magazine Award for Best Sports Magazine, besting entrants from 26 countries around the world, and was a finalist for Designer of the Year. MVP Media will launch its own magazines on the iPad in 2011.
MVP Media also helps existing publishers convert their print products into dynamic publications for the web and tablets. Visit the MVP Magazine website at www.mvptoday.com. Contact Ron by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or connect with him on LinkedIn or on Twitter @mvp_media.