Lift circulation - talk to your readers

Using your readers to lift copy sales

There are certain editorial subjects that lift copy sales. These often come as a surprise to the editor.

To discover what these are, you will need to test subjects by including them in your subscription mailings. New emphasis can improve response to both new-business and renewal promotions. You can easily test various topics with low-cost promotions to your reader database.

This is usually an outside copywriter’s function. He or she will take an independent view of the market and have a fresh take on what the demand is for. (This, by the way, is usually why a copywriter is hired.)

Once you have the evidence, invite your editorial department to marketing meetings. Make sure they see regular monthly renewal figures so they appreciate high or low renewal percentages. Low renewals could be because the editorial doesn’t meet expectations.

Tell editors which editorial articles and promotional incentives are the most popular. Can more articles be carried on this theme?

Free editorial
This is kind of new to many publishers, as it has only started really happening this century.

When a writer cannibalises or repeats a past feature with a few changes and updates, it’s lazy journalism. It happens all the time because it means the editor can hire almost any journalist to write it. That’s why most magazines gradually lose their readers.

The best editor I have had the privilege to work with cut right across this practice with some fascinating and valuable articles such as ‘How I Cured my Child’s Car Sickness’, an article completely made up of readers’ tips. (Don’t give him orange juice on the trip. Let her hold a ‘magic penny’ etc.)

Creative journalism comes from talking to your readers, not other writers. This is how an editor can fall down.

So include a subscriber questionnaire on your website, loose insert, or the back of your label carrier when mailing your publication. Make the questions open-ended. Ask what’s on your reader’s mind, how he solves common problems, what he thinks about sex, his wife or his boss.

Publish the most interesting answers. Ask the most forthright responders to expand their replies. They will be so pleased to receive recognition they won’t ask for payment. (Most editors won’t like this. Slowly, they are changing!)

By creating a regular dialogue with your readers you’ll stay current and achieve far more response to your promotions. All for nothing.

Advertising-led features
An editor may feel an advertising-led feature beneath him or her – but Running magazine, for example, lifted both copy sales and advertisement revenue when it introduced its annual ‘Running shoe’ supplement. As running shoes are vital to a runner’s performance, sales shot up.

As the person who thought up this idea, I should be receiving royalties (or ‘residuals’). But publishing, unfortunately, has not caught up with the TV and movie industry.