Tapping into the opinions of readers can ensure publishers can develop the most compelling content, and positively impact the bottom line

The publishing sector has evolved significantly over the past few decades. Competition is fierce, and, particularly in the consumer magazine arena, many publications have been forced to close, or turn to online-only format to survive. In the UK, the total number of print magazines shrunk by 10% from August 2011 to July 2013. Recent victims include monthly women’s glossy Easy Living magazine which has gone to digital-only format, and More! Magazine also folded after over 15 years in print.

Bo Mattsson
Bo Mattsson

The media sector however is by no means in decline. Digital media consumption has exploded. Associated Newspapers – publishers of the Daily Mail – has recently announced that its tablet edition Daily Mail Plus has grown in circulation by 50 per cent since April, with daily sales of 14,937. Free publications such as the Evening Standard, CITY AM and consumer magazines Stylist and Time Out have also seen huge increases in circulation since removing a subscription fee. Plus sites such as BuzzFeed, The Huffington Post and countless blogs are being enjoyed by consumers all over the world.
In the face of this competition, what can publishers do to ensure their products do not fall victim to fragmented media consumption, shrinking disposable incomes and increased competition? Why are consumers still loyal to titles such as Vogue and GQ? It is because of the content they deliver – which has been developed to specifically satisfy the needs of their target audience, needs which evolve and change rapidly. It sounds simple, but in a fickle world, if a consumer buys a magazine that doesn’t meet their expectations, they are significantly less likely to buy it again. So how can publishers be sure they are delivering content that readers want? The answer, again, is simple – by asking them. Hearing from the horse’s mouth exactly what features, celebrity interviews, reviews and reader offers are of interest to a target audience will help publishers to produce attractive content that will keep them coming back for more.

Obtaining the views and opinions of a target audience used to be a complicated procedure – involving often expensive and time-consuming focus groups, focusing solely on qualitative data which typically requires more resource to translate into immediate actions. Yet many publishers are now setting up their own online market research panels of readers or subscribers that they are able to contact as regularly as they see appropriate to find out their views. By using software such as Cint Engage, these publishers or ‘panel owners’ can ask readers their opinions efficiently and cost-effectively at the touch of a button, in order to gather intelligence with which to inform content. Polling readers is not just relevant for print editorial creation, but can help to form platform development strategies should readers be interested in influencing the digital content of their favourite publications.

Furthermore, advertising is increasingly crucial as a revenue stream for the publishing sector. With dwindling subscriptions and sales of magazines on the wane, many publishers have come to rely on advertising income to stay afloat. This is illustrated by the success of the free publications, who solely need above the line investment and have seen advertisers flock to them in response to their huge circulations and readership figures. Historically, media buying agencies and advertisers had to use media kits that were updated annually but in today’s fast-moving world, this information becomes out of date quickly. Yet, with reader panels, publishers can find out useful facts and statistics about these individuals that can be shared with potential advertisers. Rather than simply knowing the geographical location of subscribers, they can establish further demographics such as their age, job, marital status and how many children they have. Additionally, they can establish information that is like gold dust for brands and advertisers – such as whether they are looking for a new car, hoping to refurbish their home, or planning the holiday of a lifetime. Panel owners can share their panels with brands wanting to establish this information. For example, if a new baby food company wants to launch in the UK, they can poll readers of parenting publications to find out where their most reception audience lives, what their budget will be, and how they prefer to purchase products.

With technology such as Cint Engage, when publishers and brands deploy a survey to people within the panel, both the owner and respondent receive a ‘thank you’ payment. This financial benefit acts as a further incentive for the magazine readers to participate in surveys, in addition to the satisfaction of being able to give their opinion. Moreover, the publisher can use this payment from external companies to invest in providing higher quality content or developing its technology offering.

‘Loyalty’ is a word used a great deal in the media these days and it is increasingly difficult to secure, as consumer choice means they frequently change their purchasing behaviour depending on the best deal available. However, whilst the growth of technology has had a negative impact on traditional print media sales, on the other hand, it has brought opportunities for publishers who want to embrace innovation. By developing a reader panel, they can not only develop more compelling content, but can provide an accurate picture of their readers to inform potential advertisers whilst in turn enjoy the added bonus of experiencing a tangible financial benefit.

Author bio
Bo Mattsson is the chief executive of Cint, a global provider of technology for creating online panels and obtaining market insight. Bo founded Cint in 1998 when he decided to apply his experience of trading online to the market research industry. He then took over as CEO in 2003 to revamp the core market research tools into an exchange-based offering for respondent access. For further information, please visit

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