April 30, 2014 Last Updated 8:06 am

Wednesday column: Top 10 digital magazine mistakes that cost publishers readers

Each Wednesday, Talking New Media invites industry leaders to discuss industry topics involving digital publishing. This week’s column is authored by Matt Palmer, CMO of Appzine Machine.

When When creating your mobile magazine, it helps to look at other digital publishers on the Apple Newsstand to see what they’re doing right. You can learn a lot by looking at best practices of the top magazines in your niche or industry.

But you can also learn a good deal by knowing what NOT to do. It’s these common mobile magazine creation and marketing mistakes that may be costing you readers. We’re talking both about people who don’t convert from being a reader to a paid subscriber and also people who don’t download your magazine app in the first place.

appplatform-screenshotLost readers means lost revenue, so let’s take a look at the top fumbles to avoid along with examples from Appzine Machine publishers. That way, you can make your tablet magazine even more successful.

First, top mistakes to avoid when creating your magazine:

Not understanding your audience
What does your audience REALLY want? It can be a tough question to answer, but well worth knowing. Happier readers mean larger revenues, making this a top error many magazine publishers make.

To solve this problem, ask your audience for their feedback regularly – on Facebook, Twitter, and in surveys. Using a simple survey for our magazine (created for free thanks to SurveyMonkey) not only helped us zero in on the topics and pain points that readers most cared about but it also yielded many testimonials that are helpful in marketing.

Not solving a true problem
Readers are happy to pay for information that makes their lives better or solves a problem for them. But you’ll have trouble selling a magazine that lacks a clear benefit.

The stronger the benefit – lose weight, improve your golf game, be informed of current events – the more you can charge for subscriptions and the more readers will stick around month after month. Remember, advertisers are also looking to solve problems and are more likely to sign on the better they align with your content.

Being too broad
A key advantage of the Newsstand is the ability to serve niche audiences and grab your part of the “long tail”. Some publishers worry that their readership will be too small if they target a certain niche. But often the opposite is true – it can actually be easier to find your niche online (there’s a blog, forum, or Facebook group for everything!) and convince them to subscribe.

For example, Christian Man Magazine is laser-focused in its desire to serve a specific subset of the faith with educational and uplifting articles. While having this targeted audience may be difficult to do in print, it’s ideal for the digital magazine world.

Waiting a long time
Apple requires magazines in the Newsstand to publish at least quarterly. But waiting that long can mean that readers lose interest. Rather than publishing long issues 4 times a year, aim to put out issues more regularly even if they’re a bit shorter.

You can speed up your production time by recruiting guest writers so you don’t have to write it all yourself. You can also find contributors who agree to write each month in exchange for their own regular column.

Being boring
Don’t be afraid of being polarizing – it’s often controversy that attracts more attention and readers. How can you spice up your content? Focus on what is most interesting, surprising, even controversial about the topic or interview subject.

Thinking like a print magazine
Turning your print magazine into a digital version is a great way to reach new readers, but that doesn’t mean you should stop there. Enhance your articles with video or audio – perfect for interviews with relevant experts. And, give your readers one-tap access to more information by adding links to helpful resources (which is also a great way to get them back to your website!).

Gold & Silver Investors Digest even includes graphs that are updated live inside the pages of the magazine – valuable information in a fast-changing industry. It’s like the difference between reading stock prices in tomorrow’s newspaper or seeing them live on CNBC.

Thinking small
Your mobile magazine is the perfect opportunity to think big! Even if you’re just starting out, don’t hold back when drawing up a list of potential writers and contributors.
As just one example, a new publisher was able to attract financial guru Suze Orman to contribute to the first issue of his new Working Parents magazine. Having a well-known name appear in the issue helps build instant credibility and momentum.

Also, watch out for these common magazine marketing flubs:

“If you build it, they will come”
This a common myth that just creating and publishing a magazine means that people will find it. While there are many people looking through the Apple App Store every day on their iPad, remember you are competing with other magazines – and people’s busy lives. So a well thought out marketing plan is key for getting as many readers to find you as possible.

Not giving it enough time to work
No new business or publication will become an instant hit. It takes time for any upstart magazine to attract readers and interest. So, try to be patient and keep up your marketing efforts as they start to gain traction.

Relying too much on any one channel
You’ll often hear some digital publishers say that social media is THE way to get readers. No wait, it’s advertising. Or was it something else? Truth is, the best overall strategy is to get traffic from everywhere. Focusing on just one or two channels for your magazine marketing and ignoring the others can lead to less visibility and you run the risk of having that channel dry up.

Being short sighted
Think long term when you create and promote your digital magazine to build lasting success. Then you’ll be making the decisions that will not just be working today but ensuring more readers and subscribers for years to come.

By avoiding these 10 common mistakes, you’ll be ahead of your competition. But most importantly, you’ll be appreciated more by your magazine’s readers – both the ones you have now and the many more to come.

Matt Palmer is the CMO of Appzine Machine, the digital publishing platform that allows anyone to create and publish their own magazine app to the Apple Newsstand. For more digital publishing tips, read their mobile magazine guides.

  • Scott 4 years ago

    Great pieces of advice there Matt.
    Many that don’t just apply to App Magazines but for web magazines in general as well.

  • Matt 4 years ago

    Thanks very much, Scott! Hope you found the tips helpful. That’s a great point about web magazines, too – they need exposure and readers just as much as their mobile cousins 🙂

  • Wojciech Szywalski 4 years ago

    Bare truth.
    Especially “If you build it, they will come” approach.

    • Matt 4 years ago

      Thanks for your comment, Wojciech! What other common mistakes have you seen out there?