How to grow your print subscriptions with digital issues

The Digital Dilemma

In an increasingly digital world, it’s difficult to fathom staying afloat as a print publication. But the transition into digital hasn’t been easy either.

First, there’s the slow evolution of exactly what a digital issue means (don’t worry, we have an answer for you). And then, there’s the problem of advertising.

Digital advertising is a mess and even with solutions arising, traditional advertisers still vastly prefer print.

And we can’t blame them for that: print advertisements have a captive audience and a weight and gravity that digital ads don’t – if you took the time to do a full page spread in glossy high definition, that readers can actually hold (and sometimes smell) – then readers are more willing to actually look them over.

So the more robust your print business is, the more advertisers you can attract. And, believe us, we understand how important that is.

Fortunately, launching a proper digital issue doesn’t have to mean killing your print publication. In fact, done correctly, your digital editions can actually increase your print subscriptions.

Just ask Modern Drummer Magazine.

A Proper Digital Issue

Modern Drummer Magazine is doing everything right in the digital space. They’ve taken a legacy of nearly half a century of tips and techniques, of interviews and reviews – and delivered a stunning digital issue.

They have a rockstar social media presence, a strong podcast, and a great app.

But it took even Modern Drummer a bit of experimentation to get there.

The problem was, of course, that the correct format for a digital issue has taken a while to become clear.

All the early attempts made by print publications to ‘go digital’ took the form of PDFs or flipbooks – the print edition just dropped onto a webpage in its entirety.

In addition to the unwieldy file size, these formats are virtually invisible to the search engines that drive traffic on the web. As far as Google & Co. are concerned, all that lovely content might as well not exist.

Lack of content means lack of rank in the search engine results page.

So, not a great solution all around.

Fortunately, Modern Drummer discovered ZEEN101’s IssueM – which delivers a true digital issue – and Leaky Paywall – which protects their content from non-subscribers without blocking the search engines.

With IssueM, they publish their content, article by article, into a monthly collection just like their print publication. It’s beautiful, dynamic, and easy to peruse.

Leaky Paywall allows subscribers access to the whole issue, while non-subscribers get to read a few articles for free before being prompted to subscribe. 

Each article can be shared and re-shared on social media and the search engine bots can see it all and report back that Modern Drummer knows its stuff.

That’s a digital edition that works.

Proper Pricing Promotes Print Performance

But how does all that help you sell print editions (and all the lovely advertising revenue that comes with it)?

The trick, Modern Drummer discovered, is in the pricing.

When visitors to the digital issue have worn out the meter and been invited to subscribe, they are presented with a number of options.

They can purchase a ‘Digital Only’ subscription for $4.95 a month, which is less than the newsstand price for a print copy. It’s an entirely reasonable price for readers who want the convenience of digital magazine access via web and their integrated iOS and Android apps.

Their other option is a ‘Print + Digital’ subscription…for $29.95 a year. (If you’re following along with the math, that’s just about 1/2 the price of the digital only.)

It’s a win-win situation. Either they make double the profit from the subscription itself or they add to their burgeoning list of print subscribers, thus making their advertisers happy.

And all they had to was set the price right. As Modern Drummer’s digital director Miguel Monroy says,

“We don’t promote the difference. Our last figures showed the print outperforming the digital 4 to 1. People figure it out on their own and usually choose the print option.”

It’s all about your perspective. As Modern Drummer discovered, digital issues are actually a great sales tool for your print publication. (And, as an added bonus, a sales tool that generates its own revenue, too.)

Want to discover more about growing your publication with a digital edition? Let’s chat.

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