When you’re aiming to land those first-time or one-off readers, you have to understand where they’re coming from.
John Morthanos goes back years in publishing as a consultant helping niche and special interest publications grow sales. And he’s got something to say about the highly elusive newsstand buyer.
“Chances are the content of 9 or 10 issues a year of a monthly magazine will have no interest to them,” Morthanos explains in Publishing Executive.
In other words, they are likely either new to your niche or have a very tight interest range that makes the idea of a subscription seem like a waste.
Morthanos tells the fascinating story of how Bowhunter upped their special issues sales with one simple yet profound change. They were faced with disappointing (and confusing) sales of the White Tail Deer annual special; it was completely bombing west of the Rockies for three years in a row.
Editorial blamed the western distribution agencies. Yet a deep dive into the subject matter provided the key: “I found out (as a non-hunter) that there were no white tail deer west of the Rockies,” Morthanos explains. “There are Coues Deer and Black Tail Deer, but no Eastern White Tail Deer.”
The typical newsstand reader out west, not being familiar with the content, just wasn’t turned on by the White Tail special.
The simple fix was to add headlines that referenced Black Tail Deer and Coues Deer content, “and we sold 7,000 copies more than a regular issue, exceeding the net sales for the Big Game Issue … a pickup of over 13,000 copies, or in 1993 dollars, over $65,000.”
He urges publishers to remember the vast difference of content knowledge between the seasoned editor and the new reader.
“Sometimes the editors are too close to their subject or writing for themselves and their friends that they might be out of touch with the newsstand subscriber who may be a neophyte to the topic, who has the potential of becoming a regular subscriber (or more frequent newsstand subscriber),” Morthanos continues.
“Think of the 90% of browsers that are looking for inspiration and facts about something they enjoy and want to know more about. Ask yourself, how did you initially become interested in the category? You did not begin life with an expertise on the subject.”
When you understand why they are interested, you’ll be miles ahead in giving them what they need.