Company: OffBeat Magazine
Owner: Publisher Jan Ramsey, and Managing Editor / Business Manager Joseph Irrera
Market: Local and international audience of New Orleans culture and music enthusiasts.
Circulation: OffBeat Magazine is delivered to 5000 subscribers and 45,000 copies on news racks and hotels in New Orleans. The audience is young, middle and upper-income audience.
Website traffic: 35,000 monthly, 30,000 of which is in the U.S.
Contributors: Publisher Jan Ramsey
Initiative: OffBeat's Weekly Beat
Challenge: OffBeat is a niche magazine covering a regional music genre, New Orleans music. It has a small, but fiercely loyal fan base.
“People subscribe to learn about New Orleans music,” Ramsey said. “They use it for research; it documents the history of the local music for the last 25 years. It focuses on who is playing now as well as historical figures. It’s an unusual little magazine.”
OffBeat executives wanted to gradually replace lost print readership and subscriptions with digital traffic, ad revenue, and merchandise sales. A key initiative was developing and monetizing its email newsletter, created on software platform Constant Contact.
OffBeat publishing team decided to develop the e-newsletter into a significant promotional tool that could both add revenues and prompt people to check the site for key news and commerce opportunities. Here are some of the tactics:
1. E-newsletter content strategy
The key content shift for the newsletter’s relaunch was from providing complete content in the newsletter to promoting content on the web site.
“I had a web guy who was inexperienced and an editor who was relatively lazy and instead of putting stuff on the site would publish content directly on the newsletter,” Ramsey said.
“When they left in the middle of last year we changed the newsletter format to direct readers to site content by way of links from the newsletter.”
The newsletter now still has the highly visual look and feel of an email magazine, but actually points to a variety of promotions. For example, the newsletter recently debuted a local-band podcast.
2. Sales of advertising
Offbeat has a sales team of two, plus the publisher. Because the team is so small, all are responsible for selling sponsorship advertising on the newsletter, in display ad units similar to print or online ads.
Newsletter advertising sales packages include print, Web and e-newsletter sponsorship, though sponsorships can be sold a la carte.
“When we first started the newsletter we had no advertising at all and now we have it every week,” said Ramsey. “Our current banner advertiser actually came to us asking to advertise. It happens all the time.”
3. Promoting the newsletter: As important as promoting the magazine?
The newsletter acts as the front line news alert system for content on the web site; similarly to how newstands promote pick-up rates for the print magazine. The e-newletter therefore is integral to all online sales for both advertising and merchandise, as well as promoting interactive content that is online only.
OffBeat's team developed a promotional strategy just for the e-newsletter:
• E-newsletter subscriptions sign-ups were emphasized at local festivals and events.
• Occasional small-ticket prize giveaways (purchased by OffBeat or donated by advertisers,) have email entry forms with sign-up for the newsletter
• The funnel emphasized a simple registration overall else. Sign-ups required just e - email address on the first page, and only a simple choice of two options on the second check out page. And even the "Thank you" message is from the publisher and emphasizes users names "will never be resold."
4. Promotions of merchandise sales
One unique usage of the newletter is to promote a variety of items in the brand's store, including merchandise secured via deals with other companies.
The Newsletter promotes sale of items such as event tickets, back issues of the magazine, staff photos, T-shirts and paintings by local artists all via links to the site’s e-commerce platform. The set up is simple , but gets into the e-commerce game, where many local media need to be and are behind.
“We handle the payments manually, though we're going to revamp the site soon to change that,” said Ramsey.
“We do a revenue share with artists/writers/photographers in some cases. In others, we produce the merchandise ourselves, so the revenue is ours to keep. THe Fleurty Girl T-shirt is an example of revenue share. We sell on our website; she sells in her stores. We get a cut off everything sold and she makes the lion's share of revenue (she produces and fulfills).”
• Newsletter sponsorship advertising and product sales bring in about $1000 a week approximately. The bulk of the revenue is derived from the ad sales.
• Since its content revamp, subscribers have grown from 20,000 to 28,000, 53% male, 66% female, primarily 45-64 years of age.
• Research has shown the e-subscribers are more affluent than print subscribers and travel extensively, a key value proposition in upselling the newsletter.
• Approximately 22 percent of subscribers use the e-newsletter to link to the content and event or merchandise e-commerce pages on OffBeat.com
• Twitter followers have jumped from 6000 to 11,500 since the newsletter changed its format. OffBeat's Facebook fans have grown from 10,000 to 15,000.
• E-newsletters should not have self-contained content. They’re about directing readers to the publisher’s site so must be primarily links.
• It is crucial to hire someone who understands SEO.
• Growing the subscriber base is something you constantly have to work at – everything you do should offer the opportunity to sign up for the newsletter.
Much thanks to Jan Ramsey for sharing her insight and experience.
The author, Alisa Cromer is publisher of a variety of online media, including LocalMediaInsider and MediaExecsTech, developed while on a fellowship with the Reynolds Journalism Institute and which has evolved into a leading marketing company for media technology start-ups. In 2017 she founded Worldstir.com, an online magazine, to showcases perspectives from around the world on new topic each month, translated from and to the top five languages in the world.