To Thrive At Audience Development, Publishers Need to Master Content Marketing
Despite an entire career spent in publishing, I took a brief detour into the agency world, specifically a content marketing agency. That time proved to be valuable as it confirmed what I had already been practicing and preaching in the audience development side of the business.
Audience development professionals and publishers are constantly on the hunt for a more engaged customer. For example, a website visitor that’s likely to buy an event ticket or pay for content. The challenge is, most folks in the circulation or audience development world have very little insight or access to the editorial processes. Editorial produces content and the audience development team gets to work creating an audience that will consume (and ideally pay for) that content. And at least at the lion’s share of publishers that I currently work with, there isn’t an audience development strategy behind the content creation. Sure, covers are scrutinized for newsstand viability and subject lines are examined for optimal open rates. But how often are publishers truly inspecting the content that they are producing to see which is most likely to grab a new email subscriber, the first step in converting someone to a paying customer? From what I’ve seen, not often.
So, when I took that brief aforementioned detour into the content marketing world I was amazed that the content we were producing was conceptualized, written, analyzed, and judged based almost entirely on its ability to drive eyeballs and convert visitors. Having lived in the publishing space for so long, that concept kicked on a few lightbulbs in my head. Instead of just editorial and audience development teams living a largely independent existence, these teams should work closely to produce types of content that is most likely to not only attract eyeballs, but convert that visitor into a subscriber. There’s a science to it, and most publishers aren’t playing the game despite their constant desire for audience growth.
Let’s break down what this might look like.
- Collaboration Between Editorial & Audience Development
Audience developers should have a foot in the editorial team with a role to help the editors better understand the reader, their habits, and demographics. When looking for content that will best serve as a lead magnet for audience development, look for topics with high search volume or strong long tail SEO potential. These can be sometimes be tricky relationships to build. Start by discussing goals. The goals of editors are often very well aligned with the audience developer – drive more readers.
- Promote the Content that Converts New Audience
The next action item is getting this piece of content in front of your readers – and new readers.
Target your ideal reader within Google, Facebook or LinkedIn. Wherever you know your target audience to “hang out.” Distribute the content to existing audiences via email. Focus on those pieces of content from an SEO perspective by performing regular SEO audits on those pages and track the most relevant keywords.
- Call to Action
No content marketing strategy is complete without a call to action. These should be built seamlessly into the content where appropriate. A solid call to action would be an opportunity for the reader to give their email address. Examples of a strong call to action are offering a whitepaper that dives deeper into the topic the reader is already reading, a promise to update them when the topic is discussed again on the site or offering a recipe that you’ve snagged from a hot local chef. Deliver these messages in varying locations including blog footers, in-line with the content, or via on-site pop ups. Every audience is different—although there are tried and true tactics—so try, test, and repeat.
- Build the Relationship
Snagged an email address? Golden. Make sure that any calls to action that ask for an email address immediately deliver on the promise that was made to the reader when they handed over their email address in the first place. From there, continue to nurture the relationship. Send content that is similar to the piece that captured their attention in the first place. Reinforce that your brand has something to offer.
From there, your audience development team should know what to do. Let them work that new consumer lead until they make the sale. It’s what we do best.
Melissa Chowning is the CEO of Twenty-First Digital, where she guides her clients’ digital strategies and audience development efforts to drive traffic, engagement, and retention. Formerly the Audience Development Director of D Magazine, Portland Monthly and Seattle Met, Melissa understands that the key to audience growth is also monetization. When she’s not immersed in the digital world, you’ll likely find her reading, listening to podcasts, and keeping busy with her two children, both under the age of 6.