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Upping the ante on digital editions

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As distribution, manufacturing and customer-acquisition costs continue their steep upward climb, business media companies are putting more energy into driving subscribers to digital editions. And the two main rivals in the b-to-b digital edition marketplace—Nxtbook Media and Texterity—are both attempting new and different ways to serve circulators. Nxtbook has recently begun to allow Web site visitors interested in subscribing to a publication to be sent directly to a publisher's Web site or microsite instead of handling the transaction within its servers. “The readers want what the magazine can offer: its brand, its content. So we want that information firsthand and not necessarily from us,” said Marcus Grimm, marketing director at Nxtbook Media. Kim Clothier, director of circulation for the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, said that Nxtbook's plan may not increase subs, “but the ones that do subscribe will be highly qualified. Driving them to the publication's site will hopefully get them engaged earlier rather than waiting for their first issue to arrive.” Texterity is taking a different tack and has introduced a new lead management system to collect information on audience behavior every time anyone “touches” a Texterity product digitally. Martin Hensel, president and founder of the company, said that this has created new revenue streams and subs for Oracle, its first test subject, as well as Registered Rep. and Telephony. “It's all based on your audience knowledge, which is much better than any other info you could get elsewhere,” said Hensel, who added that b-to-b magazines are much quicker to adopt the digital-edition model because subscribers are far more likely to read digital editions then their consumer brethren: “Since it is read for work, b-to-b subscribers tend to open up our e-mails right away, “ he said, pointing out that some b-to-b titles have as many as 20% of their subscribers coming in digitally. “It's searchable, easily scanned and [you] can read it while you're waiting for the kids at soccer practice,” he said. Nick Cavnar, VP-circulation at Hanley Wood, said he views digital editions not as replacements for print editions but as another venue for gaining new readership. “I think you'll see more publishers putting up digital editions as a form of Web content, available to everyone and not just subscribers,” he said. “Publishers are realizing that our total audience of print/e-newsletter/Web site visitors is much larger than print circulation alone.” Cavnar said digital editions become a way to give print advertisers exposure to the wider total audience. Texterity now invites all consumer print subscribers to view their digital counterparts as part of their print subscription. “People want to read those magazines in their favorite chair,” Hensel said, “but who has the time? We're trying to get them to read the magazine everywhere they are, and then they won't feel so badly about their unread magazines in the recycling pile.” A lesson b-to-b circulators can take from consumer titles is that when a reader is so engaged with a publication that they take it with them digitally, they have a higher incidence of visiting the magazine's Web site and subscribing to the magazine's e-newsletters. “You find a more engaged reader with this method,” he said. Texterity is also experimenting with social media, allowing readers to clip stories from publications and share them with one another in order to provide still another gateway to the publication. Grimm noted that Nxtbook has found some inadvertent success through readers posting stories on their Web sites. Nxtbook has developed a widget for readers to put on their Web sites in order to share content. The plan is for the widget to soon have a subscriber function embedded into it so anyone who comes to it on another Web site can immediately subscribe if they like. Grimm said that the social-media type of organic effort is growing and changing the face of circulation digitally. A year ago, e-mail accounted for 85% of Nxtbook's readership. “A publisher would send out an e-mail to subscribers to tell them that a new digital issue was up,” said Grimm. Now, e-mail is about 50% and RSS and social-media traffic has risen to fill that void. “When a prospective client comes in and the audience marketer asks me what our open rates are, I worry because that means they're only looking at one leg of the equation,” Grimm said.
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