SPECIALIST MEDIA SHOW
Why Singletrack is investing in print subscriptions & specialist retail
Singletrack is an independent magazine and website for mountain biking enthusiasts. The magazine is available on the iPad as a simple page turner. Publisher Mark Alker has decided to relaunch the magazine in March 2012, with a significant investment in design and paper, somewhat against the trend in publishing businesses. Here’s why he is doing it and a rather clever way he is leveraging the relationships he has with specialist retailers. So far this approach has grown print subscriptions by 20%, earning Singletrack a place in the 2012 Media Pioneer Awards shortlist.
Digital content has driven interest in print subscriptions
As Singletrack has developed its website, social media presence, ipad edition, kindle publications et al, all of which have a higher profit margin than print, it has noted a significant surge in interest in print subscriptions. (This has also been the experience of the Spectator, as Ben Greenish shared at the 2011 Specialist Media Conference – which Mark Alker attended).
Focus on subscriptions rather than retail sales
Singletrack has found the newstrade very volatile and vulnerable to external events. Meanwhile subscriptions are controllable, and subscribers are the most loyal supporters of the magazine. Subs are 100% efficient, and costs are predictable, while retail sales are erratic and wastage costs £35k pa.
Magazine relaunched as a product for subscribers
So, says Mark, “The magazine is being redesigned as a product for subscribers and not newsagent browsers. This means our designers have more freedom to design amazing looking magazines without having to worry about g-spots, key words and awful cover lines (cover lines are wasted on subscribers). Because the magazine is efficient when aimed predominantly at subscribers we can take waste savings and put that back into improving the paper stock. So Singletrack will be relaunching as a much fatter, better quality feeling product (pages up from 85gm to 115gm). The overall impression for subscribers will be a heavier 'thunk' on the mat and a magazine that feels almost like a book.”
The cover price is going up a lot but the subs price will stay where it is now. This will mean losses in the high street but an uplift in subs. So far this strategy has grown subscriptions by 20% year on year. The bike industry is supportive of the increase in magazine production values and the focus on subscriptions.
Subscribers get access to all digital content
All digital products will be available to subscribers as part of their subscription. Mark believes that enthusiasts want to access their content in whatever format is most convenient at the time. The website is Singletrack’s most valuable promotional tool, so that will be where all the subscription and multi-media content will be channelled. Singletrack are also working on an app that will ultimately be free to download, and guide users to subscribe in-App via the Singletrack website so they get access to all their subs content and benefits.
Repackaged content used as ebooks and paperbacks
Content from the magazine has been packaged as ebooks for Kindle and iPad, which are proving extremely popular, and the ebooks are used as subscriber benefits, with thousands being delivered digitally to subscribers. Some ebooks have been recreated in print as paperbacks, such as a collection of popular columnists, and, according to Mark, "have sold like hotcakes".
Vouchers for retailers to drive subscriptions
But the cleverest idea is working with bike shops to promote subscriptions. They get iTunes style voucher cards with a unique voucher code for website sign-up that tracks back to the store that sold it. The retailer gets a margin on every subscription they sell. Subscribers can select digital only or print and digital. Watch this space for updates following the relaunch on 15 March.
Update April 2012: Subscriptions now principle sales channel and digital sales take off
Since the relaunch in March, SingleTracks' subscriptions have taken off, the feedback from readers has been ecstatic, digital edition downloads have boomed and website traffic has exploded.
"Our relaunched issue happened on the 15th March and the response has been incredible. Between the relaunch issue and the subsequent issue (73) that has gone on sale this week, we've added almost 400 subscribers to our database! (In a six week period). We are still waiting for our finalised newstrade sales for the relaunch issue but our distributor reported cases of branches of WHSmith selling out after a week. Our closed off figures are due on the 18th May - so far so good.
24% of our subscribers have downloaded our most popular eBook and in the 18months we've been offering our subscribers access to our entire back catalogue of issues they've downloaded 114,000 digital issues.
Subscription sales have now grown to a level that makes them our principle sales channel for the mag. We have over 1200 purely digital subscribers and despite the website pay wall for subscribers we've increased our website traffic figures to a staggering 820,000 monthly unique users looking at almost 9 million pages. Our move away from a system weighted towards a wasteful newstrade towards a profitable, efficient subscription model is well under way."
"If I could frame it I probably would. Loving the front cover of @singletrackmag" - @aj_bamford
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