Monetizing Your Digital Magazine

A digital magazine can be downloaded to your Adobe Reader, rather than mailed to your home. Digital magazines simulate the act of “turning pages” by clicking an arrow. It appears as if you are looking at a Xeroxed magazine through one of those old-school newspaper-viewers they had before computers. You know the ones where you turn the dial and you see a microfiche of the next page?

Of course the quality is a lot nicer now.

There are several ways that you can make money using this business model. You need content, SEO, and analytics in order to get advertisers. It is a bit more complex, but these are the basics. The need for good content is a given, so I will concentrate on the other two areas.


Analytics for Digital Magazine & Content Sites

The primary issue is that your readers are consuming content in two completely different areas: the Adobe Reader Magazine and on the web. Some people will prefer one or the other, some both. You will probably have to reconcile this data for your advertisers.

Or just lose the magazine and go with only web content.

Assuming you must keep the magazine, here are the ways to monetize the content:
a) Adsense/ Doubleclick type ads (“non-guaranteed inventory”)
b) Direct advertiser purchases (“guaranteed inventory”)
c) Affiliate links
d) Paid Subscriptions
e) Selling users’ personal information or using it in some way.

A. To make money with this type of content you need good content (obviously), a lot of pages, and visible ads (because we want people to click on advertisers ads). Advertisers care about getting converting traffic to their traffic. If you don’t provide it, they will stop advertising on your domain.
The advantage of adsense is that you can set it and leave it and the inventory will be filled. The disadvantages are that you can’t place adsense on adobe pages and you have little control over your advertisers.

B. There are two types of ad purchases: An ad in the digital magazine and an ad on the site. Getting companies to buy inventory on the site will be relatively easy. Just provide them stats. Getting them to buy space in the digital magazine will be much more difficult. Obviously it may just involve getting a salesman to talk an advertiser into giving you money. More likely it will involve a complex analysis in which you show how many of your website readers subscribe/download the magazine, and what do you know about those users. You can use analytics for this. IF you have everything set up properly it still will take time (to accumulate historical data) and a great analyst to figure out how to “spin” the data into actual business drivers.

C. Affiliate links are relatively easy to set up. You sign up and then embed links in your content. If someone clicks and then goes and makes a purchase you get a percentage. The risk is that you will alienate your readers if you do it poorly or too often, or you will send readers off your site and they will not purchase.

D. If you can get people to pay you directly for your content- that is great. Signing up for an RSS feed is ok too.

E. If you have people’s info, you can sell them stuff. There is a line between re-marketing and creepy that could hurt your brand.

I would assume that most companies use a combination of all of these methods. The problem is that some of these can be labor intensive (C), require incredible talent (A, B, C), and require tough decisions from upper management regarding how to allocate limited resources. In each case, intelligent business decisions will lead to larger advertisers, so analytics plays a huge role in the content business. Also, content sites tend to be the largest.


Acquiring Readers with SEO, Paid search, and Social

You need readers in order to have a business. Good content is important, but it needs to be optimized for SEO so that the engines will pick up your content. Good SEO takes a long time, and gains are incremental. At times SEO can conflict with content and design, so you must have a strong decision-maker at the top who is responsible for SEO/Content/Design conflicts.

There are some cases it may be worthwhile to purchase readers (e.g. advertise) so that visitors to your website buy from your advertisers (hopefully for more than you paid to acquire them). This is called arbitrage; this practice is looked upon unfavorably by some companies, and can get you permanently banned, so be careful how you use it.

Social media is a great way to get a loyal readership going. I would look to involve an intern in this process. It would be a good introduction into the world of internet marketing.

Find Your Brand’s Affiliates Using Web Analytics

Finding affiliates can be a pain. Many companies rely upon businesses contacting them with interest in their affiliate program. While this method produces many fine affiliates, there are much more proactive ways for a brand manager or marketing manager to find potential partners.

If you are stuck in the beginning phases of your affiliate marketing program, using your web analytics package might be the ticket to gathering all the “low-hanging-affiliate-fruit”. Assuming you have a website that represents your business (brick-n-mortar, or web-based, it doesn’t matter) as well as a web analytics package, keep reading.

The Web Referrals Report
Login to your analytics package. We are looking for a report called “referrals” or “web referrals by source” depending on your program. In google analytics, use the following sequence:
Traffic Sources> Referring Sites

Your report should look something like below: (clickable)

What Should I Look For In The Referral Report?
The referral report shows links and traffic to my site from other websites. It doesn’t show traffic from search engines, or emails; those are in different reports. If someone linked to your site on their site (and someone clicked that link) you’ll see that here. You can also see the different statistics comparing the quantity and quality of different sources. Click on the “ecommerce” tab if you are an ecommerce site to see which sites are bringing you traffic that results in sales. If you aren’t ecommerce, your tab will read “goals”.

That may help you select potential affiliates.

What Does This Have To Do With Affiliates?

An Affiliate is someone that drives traffic to your site in exchange for a percentage of sales or a set amount per lead. These sites on this report are already doing that! You can see which sites are bringing traffic and sales. If they are bringing you 5 sales a day without trying, imagine how many sales they could bring if you offered them an incentive.

There are other benefits to using this report to help you find affiliates: if someone takes the time to link to your site, they are already aware of your brand. That will make contacting them, and “selling” your product easier. The fact that they have a link to your site also indicates that they thought their customers might be interested in your site. They are already sold.

Looking Closer at The Report
You should not just send out a blanket email to all the sites that link to you. You will have to click on their website and see why they linked to your site. There are a couple types of links that are common, but would not be appropriate for affiliate requests:

1) Directories
2) News stories
3) Links from professional acquaintances. (Don’t ask your lawyer to be an affiliate)
4) Employees’ facebook pages
5) Friends websites: (clubwear)

It might not seem like there will be many links left. That will depend on the size of your site and how long it has been active. At the very least this will give you an idea how to approach improving your affiliate program.

google analytics referring sites report

Conversion Rate Doesn’t Matter-For The Most Part

I was speaking with a client the other day about his site. He said he was fairly pleased with its performance as the conversion rate was 3%.
I paused and took a breath.
Did I really want to get into why that is a meaningless statistic? No: “I really don’t want to go into why that is a meaningless statistic, but yes your site has been performing better lately.” Luckily I have built up some level of trust to where it was okay to leave it at that.
What I mean to emphasize is that aggregate conversion rate tells you nothing about your website or business. However, it is a statistic that is commonly referred to as meaningful (especially the higher up the corporate ladder you go). Adding to the confusion, in the web world, I am not certain the definition of “conversion rate” has been uniformly established. Does it mean:
1) Total number of conversions/ Total number of visitors
2) Total number of conversions/ Total number of people who added items to the cart*
In my mind when we in the web world talk about conversion rate, most mean #1.

Why is Aggregate Conversion Rate not important?
Aggregate Conversion Rate is not important because you will always be willing to sacrifice your conversion rate for increased revenue.
For example:
Say you are paying $1/ visitor and converting at 5%. You get 100 visitors a day.
I tell you that there is a potential stream of traffic that you have not taken advantage of. This stream costs $.10/visitor and converts at 1%. (Both customers spend the same amount).
Would you want the traffic?
Would you be happy with increased revenue and decreased conversion rate?
Yes, of course. This would be great.
Could this ever happen? Yes, it happens all the time. Each revenue source (or channel) converts at a different rate and will change your aggregate conversion rate if you decide to incorporate that channel. The content network might convert at a different rate than the search network. As long as they are both profitable, they are worthwhile investments.
Never focus on the conversion rate, focus on profitability and maximizing conversions.

*Number #2 has something to do with abandonment rate. That is, conversion rate + abandonment rate will always add up to 1 (or 100%). We do not have a good term for conversion rate #2 (that I can think of) so we refer to its opposite term, the abandonment rate.