I know what you’re thinking. Are you kidding me? Magazines are dead. There's not much to learn from an industry that is rumored to be crumbling under the weight of of free content on the Internet.
Well, for one – magazines are based on content. And today’s web content is the currency marketers are shelling out to reach their customers online. It is also a guiding force that helps visitors traverse your website and learn about your company and whether or not they need you.
Luckily, the publishing industry wrote the book on content marketing, so they're not far behind in the digital evolution. And ironically enough, a great website is more like a magazine than you might think and I'll tell you why:
1- Your homepage is where you market.
If you’ve ever been a magazine journalist or studied the covers of any successful glossy, you know the cover is where magazines market the heck out of their best content. This is all in an effort to invite readers to peek inside. How many people actually pick up a magazine with a terrible cover and leaf through it? Probably not too many. The same goes for your homepage. Consider it your website’s “magazine cover moment.” Take cues from the publishers that have been optimizing their covers for years. They’ve got seconds to grab a reader’s attention, just like your homepage does. (And we probably don't need to mention that some magazines go overboard with this.)
2- Headlines are crucial.
The same tactics that have helped sell magazines at grocery store checkout lanes for decades are the same ones that are compelling people to click through to read content on a blog. Headlines are the most important part of marketing blog posts or any other content on the Internet. Think about what would make your audience click and have the great content to back it up. A reader wouldn’t buy a magazine they didn’t like twice. If they don’t get great content from you the first time, they won’t come back.
3- Great content sells.
There are varying ideas of what great content means to many different people. But in the publishing world (and anyone who creates a website is a publisher) great content means engaging, high-quality, authentic material that is designed to compel a targeted audience, not designed to game search engines. A lot of overzealous marketers are missing several pieces of that time-tested equation.
4- High quality content is not free.
Before bloggers all over the Internets start sending me hate mail, let me make myself clear. If you are a publisher, you have to pay a qualified person to write great content, whether or not you know you’re making a direct buck off of it. Think like a magazine. Magazines pay editors from money that is essentially made from advertising. There is no clear-cut return on investment. But one thing is certain -- you won’t get quality advertising without a readership and you won’t grow a readership without quality content. Case in point – you must pay someone to do it. Good content is not free for everyone.
5- The most successful websites rely on constant publishing.
Magazines can be weekly, monthly or quarterly, but one thing remains true – they are consistent. They know what the reader comes to expect – that delivery of content to their mailbox every month. This expectation is part of what helps them grow their circulation. So, if you say you publish blog posts every day, you should post a blog every day. Side note: Not only does consistent publishing help grow your audience, it helps them find you in the search engines. Establish a schedule that will help you succeed.
6- Publishing relies on an editorial calendar.
Magazines have entire editorial teams that painstakingly plan the framework for their publications on a regular basis. Editors don’t just show up for work one day and start writing articles they think up on the spot. Magazine content is governed by comprehensive editorial calendars that have publishing deadlines. You will set yourself (and your readers) up for failure if you do not assume this approach.
7- Be relevant or your brand is not.
One thing that really messes up great content is when people try to write it without consulting an industry expert. In the case of a website, this is similar to not involving a client on the written page content. When telling a story, editors dive into an industry. They do research. They talk to people. They get interviews. All of this combines to create thoughtful content that is helpful or entertaining to their audience. If the content on your website doesn’t resonate with your audience, it sure isn’t going to get them to convert there. Stakeholder interviews are the first place you should start.
8- Content has to be organized and user friendly.
Sure, a lot of people read a magazine front to back without ever glancing at the table of contents. But, if they are looking for a feature advertised on the magazine’s cover, you better believe they will want to know the page number. Think of your website homepage like the table of contents in a magazine. Can your user find the right path to the content they are looking for no matter where they are on the site? If you bury your most marketable content deep in your site, without a clear pathway to it, your user will end up flipping through the pages and giving up before they ever get there.
9- Magazines don’t write content about themselves.
Imagine a magazine that was all about itself. Now, imagine a thousand corporate blogs all about… well, themselves. *Crickets* The blog content on your website shouldn’t solely talk about your company or your product. It should offer your audience (your customers), something of value -- something they actually want to read, watch or do. Or they won’t do anything. There is so much noise on the Internet. Think about how your content will engage your audience by giving them things they actually want, not only what you want to tell them. Finding that balance is key.
Are there other parallels between magazines and websites we overlooked? Let us know in the comments below!
Photo by PinkMoose on Flickr and licensed by Creative Commons.
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