How should publishers foster community and build engagement?

In latest inPublishing magazine supplier Q&A our CEO Richard Stephenson joins Oscar Carlsson of Cint, Andy Guy of Circdata, Andrew Perry-Smith of Linkz to answer one of the most relevant questions in the magazine industry today: how to foster community and build engagement? The full set of answers can be read here.

Here’s what Richard had to say:

A community building strategy should be at the heart of a publisher’s digital strategy, helping to both widen the readership and deepen attachment.

Digital is great at reaching readers at minimal marginal cost but competition is fierce as the reader is only a click away from an alternative choice. Great welcomes fade quickly if the reader isn’t continuously engaged. We belong to clubs just as long as the benefits outweigh the cost of membership. Community management requires a culture of constant gardening.

Through tweeting and sharing, a reader’s ability to engage with content they read online has been made simple. This speed of response and the instant broadcasting to countless millions though social networks is now part of our popular culture. Communications are now not only two way but peer to peer and therefore strategies must reflect this.

New ways to interpret engagement are needed, new “marketing scientists” to analyse and interpret the data. The beauty of digital is that we can monitor what is actually happening on a commercially intimate level, not just rely on surveys.

Communities started by publishers work if they are allowed to develop organically. So the strategy for the publisher is to be a curator of an environment for like-minded people to engage and share experiences. These communities are not walled gardens, they spill out into all parts of the social web. This is still the same community and so presence on popular social media sites is essential. Monetization must be a secondary concern for publishers.

Container architecture within apps was initially conceived with community building at its core. Those who install on their tablet or phone a magazine app have made a decision to engage with the brand. A reader will often subscribe to the magazine but the app should be more useful and engaging. A travel magazine might have live weather feeds, maps or travel information. DIY magazines might have widgets that calculate quantities or convert measurements. Entertainment magazines might have RSS review feeds for films, festivals or links that open in an in-App browser to show the latest restaurants. The publisher must commit to making it an app-centric experience, including feedback and comments from readers.

When a reader sees something they like, sharing should be a click away, automatically clipping what they want to share. The metadata travels with the sharing and can harvest more readers as friends often share similar interests. In return, the reader is willing to share their contact details and sometimes more personal information.

The wider and deeper the engagement, the greater the returns. Container-app architecture forms an important part of this community building process.

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