Again and again, we hear the drumbeat … the big pandemic pivot for magazine media last year was to adopt a diversified direct-to-consumer (DTC) strategy.
“Bauer, Hearst, Immediate and Dennis Publishing have all seen 20-50% increases in subscriptions — print and digital — with some notable surges for individual brands,” notes Magnetic’s Sue Todd writing in Campaign.
“Cooking, crafts, fitness, gardening and homes have been obvious areas where demand has surged, but even in areas where active participation has been restricted, such as golf, demand for compelling content has increased as readers look for support, immersion and escape,” Todd continues. “This growth is not just from new users, but lapsed subscribers have returned as we look for ways to stay entertained.”
As we all turned more inward, our thoughts turned to what makes us happy, what keeps us healthy and motivated — and magazine content was there to provide an excellent contrast in our hyper-digital days. In the process, publishers realized that rock-bottom subscription pricing and a reliance on ad revenue wasn’t the right approach. Instead, the direct-to-consumer relationship is thriving. Publishers are less gap fillers and more niche content providers, and audiences are supporting this in a big way.
“As the popularity of subscriptions increased, many publishers have been able to move away from low price trials, improving profitability, as well as broadening their offer with enhanced membership benefits to reward increased loyalty,” Todd notes. “Hearst, for example, reported that they were able to remove a number of their most keenly priced trial offers and still grow subscribers by 33%.”
To make this pivot successful, the mandate is clear: Connect with your readers in a deeper, stronger way and make yourself essential — especially now that we are getting used to the subscription model for so many of the things we use every day, from grocery deliveries to TV.
At the same time, publishers have realized that the free content model of the Internet was a huge mistake that must be rectified. Instead, the DTC model is thriving, as brands provide content worth paying for.
“The pandemic has emphasised the importance of direct customer relationships through both print and digital channels — without intermediaries — and we’ll see this continue to flourish,” Todd continues. “As these relationships strengthen, publishers will be able to sell other products and services to customers, along with the subsequent data insights and data-driven products that commercial partners crave.”
Meanwhile, print magazine lovers will continue to relish that moment when the new issue arrives at the front door. That is the kind of DTC experience that will never be replicated via digital.