Media companies continue to play a vital role in influencing consumers along the path to purchase. But print media have a privileged relationship with their readers, who trust the publication’s content and value its credibility. The decision to shop is often triggered by that relationship, whether it is with a print publication or with other targeted media such as cable networks and Web sites. In many categories, such as bridal magazines, fashion magazines, and shelter titles, the ads are valuable consumer content in their own right, trusted because of the context in which they appear. Newspapers are also bundles of interest areas, such as politics, entertainment, technology, auto, food, wine, and travel. Indeed, it is the quality of media companies’ branded environments around targeted interest areas that makes print media valuable for advertisers. Beyond the value of the environment for branding, print media also drive significant traffic to marketers’ own Web sites.
Premium online environments, built on rich, exclusive content and applications, can enable print players to develop a still more intimate relationship with their readers. Consumers become more engaged and thus more willing to register and share personal data in exchange for offerings that are highly targeted to their interests and make it easier for them to connect with experts and others who share their interests. To date, however, most print media companies have fallen short in converting their readers into online registered users. They fear losing their audiences if they shield content behind a registration wall. But a clear set of best practices is emerging for how to build a large database while still attracting a large audience.
Media companies can use a broad set of touch points to drive registration and grow the volume of names in their database, including e-newsletters, contests and sweepstakes, or downloadable premium content. For example, Meredith — a leading woman-focused publisher with titles such as Better Homes and Gardens, Parents, More, and Ladies’ Home Journal — has more than 20 million subscribers receiving its e-newsletters in categories such as parenting, fitness, home improvement, fashion, health, and beauty. The e-newsletters drive traffic to the Meredith Web properties, while also delivering incremental advertising revenues themselves. Just as important, they help grow Meredith’s core database of more than 60 million women. Contests and sweepstakes provide another scalable way to drive up the volume of names and create unique opportunities for targeted advertising. For example, Hearst — another leading magazine player serving a broad set of women’s interests with titles such as Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, Marie Claire, and Redbook — produces Real Age, a Web site that provides health information and offers a test that evaluates more than 125 factors to determine a person’s “real age.” To date, Hearst has grown its database of women by more than 8 million registered users who have taken the Real Age test.
Registration-based offerings also provide opportunities to deepen engagement with paid subscribers. Media companies can allow paid customers (and only paid customers) to share an article with a friend, take part in a dialogue about it, compile a set of favorite articles, contribute to existing stories or articles, or perhaps post their own “expertise.” For example, the New York Times and Business Week have forged partnerships with the networking site LinkedIn.com to port user profiles onto their sites and enhance their audience targeting and social networking capabilities. IDG Communications — the leader in the technology category with titles such as PC World, Macworld, CIO, and Computerworld — has launched IDG Amplify, a new social advertising solution that allows the audience to engage in conversations about marketers’ products, leveraging the expertise within IDG’s existing communities while incorporating social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.