The Copywriter's Crucible

What Can You Learn From Consumer Magazines About Marketing Online?

Many freelance writers have been watching the falling readership of newspapers and magazines and started preparing themselves for the shift of audiences online, believing that the old print medium is dying. I was one of the many eager to be ready for the millions of people expected to start arriving and adopting the internet as their new home for news and information. However, in the UK there is still a healthy offline writers market worth £385 million and experiencing growth of 10% every year.

Consumer magazines, produced by companies such as Virgin Atlantic, Waitrose and Walt Disney, are being heralded as the essential corporate marketing tool. They are believed to be read by 79% of the population, and can increase their sponsor’s sales by 8%.

A recent study, of 50 titles and 17,000 interviews, found that 78% prefer communication via consumer magazines than any other marketing media.

The study reached these key conclusions:

Consumer magazines are being hailed in the UK as a powerful, and largely untapped, tool for developing an affinity and desire for an association with brands. By providing a “substance read”, rather than blatant advertising, they are valued by consumers and engaged with, rather than immediately regarded as junk to be binned.

“Research found that this engagement with the magazines has a positive impact on customers’ relationships with the brands,” said Julia Hutchison, director of the UK Association of Publishing Agencies (APA), “It delivers above all other direct marketing the holy grail of permission marketing and participation media.”

The APA believes there has been a dramatic improvement in the quality of consumer magazines as companies wake up to positive impact of providing high quality editorial and articles of value.

The good news for writers is that consumer magazines aren’t reliant on advertising to be self sufficient, but are funded as part of a company’s marketing mix. This presents a stable market and one experiencing yearly growth.

Another recent study has suggested that there is still plenty of enthusiasm for consumer magazines in the US. A USA Strategies survey of B2B executives found that print was still preferred for promoting their products and services. The perceived lack of online metrics remains the big stumbling block for promoting on the web.

“A lot of the distrust regarding the internet stemmed from the fact that although marketers can track click-through rates and page views, they still have trouble relating those metrics to actual sales,” explained Patrick Yanahan, USA Strategies president, “That should be a wake-up call to advertisers and marketers everywhere. For new media to be successful there has to be measurable results.”

The survey found that most executives still regarded websites as mere brand promotion vehicles, and that targeted search marketing had little value. It was editorial coverage and print ads they favoured as the main drivers in building customer trust and pushing sales.

Consumer magazines are highly valued as effective marketing tools because they provide content of value to the consumer. They are able to develop the sales process by building trust and confidence, rather than filling themselves with one page sales pitches. The consensus is that you now sell through information, not advertising.

Producing a consumer magazine is an expensive and complex process. However, it is relatively cheap to be able to apply the same marketing philosophy to your business website. Static brochure websites are now dated. Your web presence should become an evolving portal of news and articles that entices visitors to make return visits, or subscribe via RSS, so they can learn more about you and your services.

If you’re a freelance writer, you might want o investigate the offline market for consumer magazines. They have a wide readership, stable funding and are experiencing continuing growth.

If you have a business website then you should consider applying some of the lessons learned from consumer magazines. By providing regularly updated news and articles of value, you can turn your website into an effective vehicle for engaging with prospects and turning them into customers.

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