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Serving the International Audience

Best practices for managing, mining and expanding digital readership abroad.

By Vanessa Voltolina

Publishers originally embraced digital editions as an affordable, efficient way to serve readers overseas. But delivering content and managing subscriptions internationally requires publishers use a distinct set of tactics, like delivery incentives, subscription cuts and increased digital edition content, to bulk up their readership and save money on postal costs internationally.

"For us, it’s been an interesting journey over the past few years with the continued increase of international postage rates," said Joanne Juda-Prainito, vice president of circulation and audience development at M2MEDIA360. The business-to-business company, which publishes 16 print titles with circulations reaching over 350,000, uses vendor Digital Magazine Technology for its 16 digital titles. They've taken a look at their titles and circulations, and chosen several markets where international readership is important, said Juda-Prainito.

Mining Digital Readers
"In 2006 we first tested the waters with a digital edition after members' concerns that they were being charged a $58.00 postal surcharge on delivery of our weekly newsmagazine, C&EN," said Elise Swinehart, assistant director, marketing & exhibitions for The American Chemical Society's C&EN (Chemical & Engineering News).

Of the American Chemical Society’s more than 154,000 members, 15 percent reside outside of the U.S. in Europe and Asia, with readers of C&EN running the gamut of scientists working for manufacturers, executive management and university professors. "What we found in some surveys to our international members was interest in receiving C&EN in a digital format in exchange for dropping the $58.00 surcharge," Swinehart said. The $58, a barrier to recruiting new international members, was impacting overall membership. "So, we sent out an RFP and eventually chose Texterity in January of 2007. We rolled out a digital edition only available to ACS members living outside North America," she added.

In its first year with its international-only edition, C&EN saw 40 percent of their international members transition from print to digital. While the membership fees are the same on both a national and international basis, dues range from around $44-$140 annually for either print or a print-replica in digital edition format, Swinehart said.

"There was a very low switch back to print by these international members. In 2008, we then opened up the digital edition to U.S. members," she added. While the uptake of these digital editions by national subscribers was "much smaller," American Chemical Society was able to transition "95 percent of the comp editions that we were sending out to digital and have saved quite a bit of money in printing and mailing print copies of C&EN to advertisers and potential advertisers and others," Swinehart said. 

Content, Subscription Incentives

The largest international digital edition readership for M2MEDIA360, said Juda-Prainito, is in Canada, UK, Singapore, China and Australia, which accounts for around 8 percent of the international readership. "We’ve always had international readership on all of our publications," she said, "but it was the postage increases from 3-5 years ago that pushed the company to offer digital editions abroad to save on overall budget while continuing to push out content."

But in order to get international subscribers on board, the publisher opted to offer a content incentive. "We wanted to push out additional content, and we’ve found that there’s always lots of editorial, but never enough advertising (these editions offer ads like banner manager, embedded video and training video)," she said. "So instead of printing a larger book, we decided to put this information into the digital edition." Not only is this a bonus for international readers, it’s helped with the reader transition from print to digital.

While the company may have added content, it’s decreased the price of its digital edition. Depending on the magazine, an annual international print subscription runs anywhere from $72 to $125 internationally. M2MEDIA360 offers a hefty discount—50 percent—to get these subscribers to go digital. "Not only do international subscribers receive the magazine a week prior to the normal print edition, but it has cut down on customer service time with readers calling in and saying that they hadn’t received an issue," said Juda-Prainito. "For every 10 people abroad we sent an issue to, at least one wouldn’t receive it."

Managing Members
All of M2MEDIA360’s print titles have associated digital edition counterparts, said Juda-Prainito, with a similar reader profile in the U.S. and abroad. "The focus outside of the U.S. is ‘how to deliver publications." We have been trying to figure out better ways to reach English-speaking countries because this way we can include more information without having content translated."

To keep all of these international subscribers straight, the b-to-b publisher enlists the help of Skokie, Illinois-based Hallmark Data Systems, which specifically codes this subscriber data allowing them to sort and pull data, and "extract and target this readership for any reason," says Juda-Prainito. In addition, M2MEDIA360 offers both digital and print options on all of our subscription cards.

"We’ve been able to grow international readers organically, but in 2010, we’ll be hitting this market hard," said Juda-Prainito.

By Vanessa Voltolina

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