How to find new readers through specialist retailers

A big challenge for specialist magazine publishers is reaching a niche audience – newsstand is expensive and wasteful, search is time-consuming, and direct mail can be costly.  So I’m impressed with the solution of Songlines magazine, the latest winner of the Media Pioneer awards, who have developed partnerships with retailers to find new readers through what they buy.  Songlines is a guide for world music fans, and the print edition includes a sample CD of new artists.  Their masterstroke was creating a digital sampler edition with highlights from the latest issue, which includes sample audio tracks of featured music and links to buy on Amazon.  They also get links back to the sampler from Amazon from all their world music pages, which is a great way to introduce new world music fans to the magazine, and expand internationally.  Read more about the Songlines story on the Specialist Media Show website.  I believe this approach could work for other specialist publishers: here are the key questions to ask and steps to take:

1. What do your readers buy?

Songlines had a clear view of the music its current subscribers liked best.  It’s important to focus on the products that define your niche audience; don’t be too broad, or else your traffic won’t be sufficiently targeted.

2. How do they discover new stuff?

Magazines have always played a part in showing their readers what is new and matches their tastes.  Songlines features up and coming artists and its digital sampler helps readers learn about the artist and their music.  Understanding how your target audience discover new products should provide clues to the content you need to provide.

3. How can you help them decide?

The killer app in buying music is being able to listen to it, and that is a clever feature of the Songlines sampler.  For more complex products, opinions of experts and peers and practical buyers guides are valuable in making a choice.

4. Who do they buy from?

Amazon and itunes are the two main retailers for world music – so that is where Songlines has focussed.  The digital sampler links to Amazon, while the separate iphone app links to itunes.  Identify the core retailers for your specialist category and work out how to make it easy for readers to go from decision to purchase.

5. How can you partner with them?

The clever part of Songlines strategy is the links from Amazon product pages back to the sampler.  Retailers can’t provide the depth of content and independent product reviews in speciaist sectors – if they link to this information they are likely to sell more product.  Building a partnership with Amazon has been the key with Songlines – the value in terms of relevant readers for the sampler and building susbcriptions to the magazine is much greater than the commission on sales.  So it is worth taking the time to develop a commercial relationship with your target retailers.

If you have experiences of working with specialist retailers to reach niche audiences, please comment below.  Or join the debate on the Specialist Media Network on Linked-in, where over 380 specialist media people swap ideas and tips.  If you think your specialist media business deserves recognition as a Media Pioneer, just email me with more details.

About the author: Carolyn  Morgan runs Penmaen Media, a consultancy advising media owners on how to profit from digital media and marketing. She is also content director for the Specialist Media Show. If you’d like an informal discussion about how you can develop new revenue sources for your specialist media business please contact Penmaen Media for a chat.