Neil Thackray’s Business Media Blog

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Cultivating Reader Engagement

In the last few days we have looked at some of the key issues facing b2b journalism and b2b sales.  We also looked at the subject of pricing.  There are lots of aspects to all these issues which will be themes for future posts.  This post is a discussion about one element of business media in our new era.  It is the concept of reader engagement.

Magazine publishers worry about this only rarely.  I remember being told that sign of a magazine that was really engaged with its readers was the size of its mailbag and the quality of its letters page.  I think with the hindsight that all this was a sign of was a large mailbag and a good letters page.

Many magazines struggle with letters page.  I remember one editor who wrote letters to himself from fictitious readers in the forlorn belief that the made up letters would spawn some real ones.  The reality was that for most magazines the concept of being a communications medium meant treating readers as communicants.  We wrote, we sent it to readers and then we wrote some more.

Making the transition from thinking of readers as communicants to thinking of them as equal partners in a conversation is a difficult cultural hurdle for most traditionally trained media execs.  Perhaps one of the reasons traditional media companies have struggled with the digital challenge is that it is often led by traditional media execs.  There have been some notable converts (John Welsh at UBM and Jim Muttram at RBI being two of several I could mention) but most, at least most that I meet, just don’t get it.

Succeeding in the new era will involve making this cultural leap.  Success in cultivating reader engagement will enhance the value of those readers to advertisers and increase the probability that you can monetise the relationship through information sales, tempting them to events, even absorbing advertising.

On our site, where we have just enjoyed our highest traffic month ever with more than 4m page views, we have just launched our first sign up newsletter.  It is the beginning of a long journey towards reader engagement.  Our site began as an online iteration of an offline directory that was once the bible of the travel agent community.  Now its audience is almost entirely consumer.  Although the site has become one of the best trafficked travel information sits in the UK and is growing revenue and traffic at a good rate and is pretty profitable, we know we are only scratching the surface of what can be achieved with reader engagement.


February 3, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

1 Comment »

  1. […] have too much of the wrong kind. We have discussed before that a key challenge for web sites is to build user engagement.  A visitor to a site who arrives from natural search is unlikely to hang around for more than a […]

    Pingback by Tackling the B2B Ad Sales Problem « Neil Thackray’s Business Media Blog | May 12, 2009

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