How a drumming magazine leapt into digital subscriptions with resounding success

The Project – A Proud Print History

Modern Drummer is a comprehensive drumming magazine with a long history of compelling issues.

Interviews with titans and rising stars, product reviews, tools and tricks of trade, reflections on the history of music – Modern Drummer has been providing the drumming brotherhood with a wealth of treasure for the last forty years.

Forty years of treasure in glossy, high-color print.

The Challenge – Ineffective Web Presence

It’s not that the minds behind Modern Drummer were unaware of the need for a presence on the internet.

On the contrary, they created a WordPress news blog with some good tidbits. They started up an amazing podcast and created a cart for people to buy individual digital issues of the magazine. They even built an app for their more dedicated readers to access their favorite articles.

Of course, that caused a tangle in the workflow right from the get-go: all of their efforts were disconnected and based on different platforms. Every article, every change, every update had to be loaded and pushed live separately for each medium.

The other problem was that almost none of their best content was searchable by the bots that drive the major search engines. It couldn’t be shared on social media. It didn’t translate well to mobile devices. All of Modern Drummer’s digital articles were hidden in PDFs and flipbooks, locking away all of that rich content behind practically impermeable paywalls.

But how to change that, without just giving away all their hard-earned value?

The Obstacle – A Proud History of Print

The problem underlying Modern Drummer’s attempts to make a web splash was that all of their experience was print-based and their mindset was still geared toward the traditional medium.

The intent behind their blog, the podcast, the PDFs-for-sale was to drive people to a print subscription.

They hoped that what they had put up on the web would draw search engine bots and people’s eyes alike, but missed the broader picture of what was possible.

Fortunately, they realized they were missing some pieces and reached out to software developer ZEEN101.

And ZEEN101 said, “Oh, yeah, WordPress can do that.”

Why WordPress – A Strong Foundation for A Growing Enterprise

WordPress, by its very nature, is incredibly flexible. Its baseline dashboard has a mass appeal: easy sites for those lacking much web knowledge, with a wide base of support and extensive troubleshooting available.  

And for the truly tech savvy, WordPress is bursting with potential. In fact, it’s grown into something so wide-reaching and sophisticated that it can completely and fully support an enterprise system.

The Solution – ZEEN101’s Suite of Products & Knowhow

Thanks to WordPress’s inherent versatility, ZEEN101 has been able to create a platform specifically designed for news and magazine publishers. (Publishers exactly like Modern Drummer, in fact.)

With ZEEN101’s Anvil platform, Modern Drummer found themselves with a new set of treasures:

  • a one-dashboard publication of entire web-based issues (and news blog) of the magazine, beautifully customized and cleanly laid-out, using the IssueM plugin
  • a metered paywall (Leaky Paywall) that allows for a few free articles and unlimited article previews before the subscription requirement kicks in, granting access for search engines and social sharing, as well as article teasers. The paywall also let’s Modern Drummer sell a premium archive level subscription which costs more to access all their 40 years of back issues
  • the UniPress integrated iOS and Android app experience, allowing Modern Drummer to push whole issues and archives across devices without additional programs or tools and
  • full integration with necessary third-party services, like their long-standing payment and fulfillment partner, ESP

Furthermore, because all of their media runs through WordPress, their workflow is streamlined: every medium can be changed or updated simultaneously.

And since the Anvil platform also includes design, coding customization, hosting, and support, Modern Drummer was able to go from a successful print publisher to a fully-realized web-based publisher without having to hire on a whole internal tech team to maintain their new branch.

The Result – A True Web-Based Magazine

Once Modern Drummer stopped hiding their brilliant light under a print bushel, their web presence exploded.

In the first two weeks, digital subscriptions went from 0 to 900, with double-digit new subscriptions daily in the following months.

Their analytics report a steady, sturdy climb in site visits and social media exposure.

Beyond the numbers, the minds at Modern Drummer are also happy with how WordPress and ZEEN101 have contributed to their ongoing legacy.

The final design of our website exceeded our expectations, and we love how each issue keeps its own unique aesthetic identity within our archive,” says Modern Drummer digital director Miguel Monroy. “We now have a responsive, modern magazine experience for our readers, and it’s seamless across all their favorite devices. That, my friends, is a job well done.

Update: Read the Modern Drummer interview on Medium

Update: Read Results 1 year later

Lightning talk [6:25] on Modern Drummer at the first ever WordCamp for Publishers in Denver, CO

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