Birmingham magazine, which brought with it a solid advertising revenue stream, aggressively campaigns for subscriptions while a competitor watches closely.
In October 2011, The Birmingham News officially acquired the local city lifestyle magazine, Birmingham
, from the Birmingham Business Alliance. This magazine had a 50-year history and significant brand awareness in our marketplace, but needed a complete redesign.
The magazine provided a valuable, well-respected, and well-established brand that would add another content platform to an already diversifying multi-media news company. As a four-colour, glossy, monthly magazine with a readership of 140,000 monthly customers, Birmingham offers something new to the company. bringing to the News a dedicated print, online, social media, and event following. It also brought a solid advertising revenue stream. The News, meanwhile, provided the magazine with resources in circulation, advertising, content production, and digital product development that can ensure its continued growth.
We set out to reinvent the magazine by the end of that year and planned a total redesign for the January 2012 issue. To complement the redesign, we launched an aggressive cross-platform marketing campaign in December to accomplish three goals:
- Get the January edition into the hands of non-subscribers to drive new subscriptions. We wanted to get people excited about the magazine again and knew that required getting them to look at it first. We also wanted to turn those samples into subscriptions.
- Meet aggressive sales goals for the January issue that capitalised on the marketing and re-branding.
- Establish market dominance. Birmingham magazine has a relatively new and aggressive competitor in our marketplace that sells advertising at a lower cost and has gotten a lot of buzz in the last two years. We needed to make a big splash to drown out that buzz. To do that, we heavily promoted the magazine in our newspaper, and sought creative, inexpensive ways to put our marketing message in other places.
To turn sampling into subscriptions, we created a teaser campaign that drove to the magazine’s Facebook page, where readers could sign up for a free copy. That teaser campaign included ROP ads in the newspaper, as well as targeted e-mail marketing to individuals, organisations, and businesses that were featured in the editorial content of the issue.
During a three-week promotion, we drove more than 1,000 sign-ups via Facebook, increasing the in-home delivery of the January edition of the magazine by 11%. The marketing campaign also helped the sales staff meet a lofty goal for ad sales, despite January’s reputation for being a slow month in the sales cycle.
Our aggressive in-newspaper and television marketing captured the attention of the marketplace and generated buzz on social media and in the business community, creating a strong reaction from our product’s prime competitor. That competitor launched its own TV advertising in late January, and even ran an ad in our newspaper. Perhaps imitation is the highest form of flattery.
Facebook remains a vital component of our marketing strategy. The magazine has seen a tremendous increase in Facebook fans in recent years, and staff has become sophisticated in using social media to promote stories, and drive people to events and adept at generating viral responses to online and social media promotions such as polls, contests, and giveaways. We currently have almost 10,000 followers on Facebook and have seen significant growth in the past three months as a result of our Parents’ Choice Awards, Cutest Pets Contest, and the monthly cycle of Facebook ads we run throughout the site.
Our 2012 budget was conservative because we didn’t know what the effects of the transition would be. But to date, we are significantly above that budget and expect to finish the year very solidly — over 2011 and far above initial projections. Response from clients to the magazine redesign has been positive. We lost a few clients, but have seen a steady increase in new business accounts since the acquisition. We feel confident enough in the sales to date that we are launching our first additional standalone title in July, rolling out our biannual bridal section into our new Birmingham Weddings and Celebrations. We’re on track to hit the projected sales goal for that publication, too.
City and regional magazines — and Birmingham magazine in particular — have done relatively well during the economic downturn, unlike other magazines and newspapers. As an established, trusted brand in the community, Birmingham was already fairly healthy, despite a significant decline during the recession in two key advertising categories: beach and real estate.
However, during the past three years, the magazine found new revenue in event sponsorships, digital projects like an iPhone app, new targeted marketing sections in weddings and education, and growth in established targeted marketing sections that focus on the local legal and medical community. With the redesign and additional resources from the News ownership, Birmingham magazine is well positioned to continue to deliver useful, appealing, sophisticated content to the metro area (that is home to one million people) in a well-written, well-designed format.
Making the leap to more digital coverage is easier for us, too, because of the growth of tablet devices — magazine content can be “sliced and diced” and presented via tablet while retaining the integrity of the story. The staff is finalising our first tablet edition and exploring more opportunities for digital-only content, such as behind-the-scenes videos, blogs from writers and editors, event photos and videos, and more interactive features. Our staff is committed, creative, and extremely talented. We feel very confident about our future.