What’s in Your Digital Marketing Toolbox?


Digital marketing expert Rebecca Sterner knows what works and what trends to watch.

What is most important when creating successful marketing initiatives? What digital marketing tools work best? Digital marketing expert Rebecca Sterner has worked with magazine publishers for over two decades and knows plenty about the tried-and-true ideas that work. She also knows about the newest tools out there that are generating revenue successfully for publishers. She shared her tips and tricks for publishers in the digital marketing space.

Here’s what she had to say:

Niche Media HQ: First, when publishers are creating new digital marketing initiatives, what are a few tips for setting up an effective plan? Are there some important measurements to keep in mind?

R. Sterner:

“To me, the most critical part of any digital strategy is having a clear direction and buy-in from the top.  If everyone understands the goal – to sell more subscriptions, increase natural search, deliver ad impressions, whatever – it’s so much easier for the team to reach them.  And since digital strategy requires the breaking down of the old traditional silos of advertising, editorial, circulation, production, it becomes even more critical for management to model and encourage a collaborative, risk-taking atmosphere.”

Niche Media HQ: Can you give us some real-world examples of publishers who have successfully used digital marketing tools to sell subscriptions and other content?

R. Sterner:

Lots and lots of good work out there.  August Home Publishing has done a great job of integrating sales of their subscriptions, video products and other ancillary products, especially their woodworking title.  Cook’s Illustrated has done a good job placing a value on their content and giving away just the right amount—and using that content to tempt people to subscribe.

If it takes more than one click from your home page to a subscription landing page, that’s too many.  I have actually seen publishers who require more than a dozen clicks to finally get to a subscription page, including requiring visitors to the website to register before they can order.

When it comes to “best practices” in digital marketing, common sense prevails.  Really pay attention to the user experience and have people outside the office test your promotions.

As a publishing veteran who has been marketing magazines for 35 years, I find I really enjoy reading about the hottest new findings of digital marketing in the trade press, for example:

1. Strong benefits in the subject line sell better.

2. Landing pages that are pre-populated and just ask for the order and don’t have extraneous information do better than landing pages that don’t.

3. Emails with one central sales message instead of multiple sales messages work better.

These are all things we learned in direct mail a long time ago—it proves that good marketing is good marketing, regardless of which medium it occurs.”

Niche Media HQ: What trends do you see coming, in terms of hot new digital marketing tools?

R. Sterner:

“I see more triggered emails.  Rather than pulling lists of cohorts and scheduling ad hoc promotions, I see pre-scheduled emails sent individually and triggered by customer behavior.  So instead of pulling all the e-newsletter subscribers quarterly to send them a print subscription pitch, I see automatic individual emails sent out based on a schedule, such as immediately upon registration, shortly before and after the first e-newsletter is sent, and so on, all building up to the subscription pitch.  Of course, your email provider needs to be able to handle this.

I see more email testing on the fly – the quick responses make it easy to pre-test offers to smaller segments of the lists, then roll out immediately with the winning pitch. 

I see publishers struggling with the best ways to market their apps – and I haven’t yet seen great success there.  But I am keeping a close eye on the efforts being done in that area.”

Niche media companies can create their own unique set of tools and tactics that best fit their product(s) and their niche(s). Rebecca Sterner points out that knowing what works and what’s coming on the digital marketing horizon is now more important than ever.

Editor’s Note: Rebecca Sterner will lead the session, “Digital Marketing Toolbox: 55 Take-Away Ideas in 55 mInutes” at the Niche Digital Conference in Minneapolis this fall.



More about Rebecca: Rebecca Sterner has been an independent magazine publishing consultant for over 25 years. She leads her special-interest publication clients to be more profitable, better marketers, and stronger collaborative organizations through improved digital marketing, circulation strategies, and financial evaluations. Rebecca has lead marketing projects for hundreds of titles, and she’s done it all in the publishing world: Acting President of Utne Reader, Circulation Director for The Family Handyman, launch consultant for Cricket Magazine Group, newspaper reporter and catalog copy-writer! 


Niche Media has created super niched-out events specifically for magazine publishers for over 12 years. We’ve helped pave the way for the era of boutique events that connect specific audiences and provide great educational, friendly and super-fun environments! Plus, Carl Landau – Niche Media’s Grand Poobah – just launched a blog all about creating and marketing targeted events – blog.NicheEventNation.com  Check it out!

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