The Internet offers magazine publishers many ways to sell subscriptions online. You need to be just as strategic and just as disciplined in your testing with online marketing as you do offline.
Here are some ways that magazines are sold online:
- Banner ads on the publisher’s web site—the more prominent the position, the better.
- Subscription forms embedded on every page within the website.
- Articles interrupted with text links, with copy like: “To get more information like this every month, subscribe to X magazine for only $1 per issue.”
- Banner ads on publishers other websites (like a knitting magazine sold on a crocheting magazine published by the same organization).
- Email blasts to prospects gathered on the website. Prospects can be gathered by giving away valuable information for free, offering sign-ups to free e-newsletters on targeted topics, or selling white papers and individual articles.
- Ads on the publisher’s social media sites.
- Placing ads within e-newsletters sent out by the publisher.
- Swapping email lists with organizations compatible to yours (a cooking magazine swaps with a gardening magazine that has a similar audience)
- By encouraging article sharing and making sure that articles lead to an easy way to subscribe.
- PPC ads for key search engine phrases. This is an easy thing to test, and often works only if there is low competition for the phrase, but the audience is very targeted.
- Online magazine subscription agents.
- Partnerships with online companies—often these companies are the magazine’s advertisers. (Expressionary stationery offering their buyers subscriptions to Martha Stewart Living magazine).
- Exit pops with an offer given to anyone who clicks off the publisher’s site.
- Window shade ads that expand when the cursor touches a smaller subscription ad.
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In order to sell subscriptions effectively online, you need to:
Understand how much each online marketing endeavor costs you. While it’s wonderful to understand how many “clicks” you get from each online subscription effort, the most important statistic is how many subscription sales you get. Understand your cost per order for each attempt so that you can compare it to your other online subscription marketing efforts, as well as the ones that are sold through non-digital sources.
Have a hard-working landing page. Your landing page should do one thing: encourage an order. Do not add extraneous copy or design elements. One of the most important design elements? A secure commerce logo. Make the form easy to fill out, and don’t ask for information that will put off the sale because it makes it too time-consuming. When you know the customer’s name in advance (like in an email blast), pre-populate as many of the fields that you can.
After you sell a magazine subscription online, follow it up with a very strong email confirmation. In it, you can include a welcome message to the new customer and include some information about signing up for your e-newsletters or other things of value that you can offer.
Chances are that the person you sold a subscription to prefers to conduct business in the online world. Make sure you send them email renewal promotions (but don’t skip the mailed ones!).
Actively study what other magazine publishers are doing online, especially the larger publishes who have more resources. Learn from them.
It’s easy to deliver downloadable premiums as incentives to subscribe online. Re-purpose some of your most popular and valuable articles in pdf format and deliver them via email right after you receive the subscription. Test different premiums to see which are most popular.
If you have gated content make sure that it’s clear to visitors that they have access to articles if they subscribe. Two of the best models for this are the Wall Street Journal or Cook’s Illustrated. Check out their sites to see how they use valuable online content to sell subscriptions.
For help in selling more magazine subscriptions online, contact me.