The world of publishing is seeing an increase in popularity. Perhaps some of this is because of the constraints of the pandemic, but whatever the reason, Publishers Weekly reported that almost two-thirds of U.S. adult consumers purchased books online since the pandemic onset, and nearly two-thirds of those book purchasing consumers plan to continue reading at the same, increased level they were reading mid-pandemic. 

The Nieman Lab reported that U.S. consumers who have had their lives affected by the pandemic were also likely to be consuming more news

While book sales are up and many Americans are relying on their preferred news publishers for information on world events, publishers have a unique opportunity to connect with consumers. But, what’s the best approach to make this happen? This article will take a look at how publishers can create a strong digital media strategy to connect with modern consumers. 

The Power of Email Newsletters

Email newsletters are one digital media strategy that can be overlooked by news outlets or publishers to gain online viewers and subscribers. After all, why give content away if you’re trying to get people to subscribe?

But email is an incredibly effective marketing tool, especially compared to social media. In fact, according to Neil Patel, a digital marketing expert:

The Content Marketing Institute shared that digital marketing experts rank email newsletters as their most preferred way to nurture leads. 

As shared by Hearst Bay Area, “​​Email newsletters work well for businesses large and small, B2B or B2C. Compared to other channels, such as social media advertising or third-party media, email can also be relatively inexpensive to implement.” Those looking to grow their list of paying subscribers, connect with contacts on an email list in a new way, and improve brand awareness should consider newsletters an important digital media strategy. 

…But Don’t Count Out Social Media 

While newsletters are an important way to connect with consumers for ongoing subscriptions, social media can still be an important tool to build reputation, grow traffic, and increase subscriptions. 

In fact, 4 in 10 publishers rank social media as a top priority, according to What’s New In Publishing. Ninety percent of these publishers also shared that Facebook continues to be a dominant source of social referral traffic. 

But Facebook isn’t the only player in the social media game for publishers. What’s New In Publishing also shared that 70 percent of publishers say that Instagram will be more important to them this year, and YouTube will be more important for 51 percent of the people in this same group, as video consumption increased by 43 percent during the pandemic.

Additionally, Twitter will play an essential role for publishers. While Convince and Convert reports that Twitter’s popularity is declining, Twitter maintains a high level of importance for 63 percent of publishers, according to What’s New in Publishing. The publisher reasons that the social media platform is often used to intentionally check the news, making it still a good fit for the world of publishing. 

The key here is that just having a presence on these platforms isn’t enough. The tone and message are just as important. As Dr. Simon Andi, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism shared with What’s New In Publishing:

“Social media [is] a complex space for mainstream media organizations to navigate.

They have to share this space with a range of other content creators who do not have the same editorial principles and values. But given the time that people spend on social networks – and the dangers of false information and political propaganda – it still seems important that journalists and news organizations find ways to adapt to these more informal spaces, especially if they want to engage people with low interest in news and young people (groups that rarely go directly to news sites or apps).”

In 2022 and beyond, publishers can continue to use social media to connect with readers if they strike an informal tone and balance their content with the modern consumer's expectations. Strategies to achieve this include:

  • Analyze different consumers' interactions with your brand and customize messaging across various social media platforms accordingly.
  • Make user social media habits work for you. For example, it’s been reported that Instagram users focus more on stories than general posts. News publishers like BBC have taken note and are publishing 15-second news stories on their Instagram stories to channel content where the users are.
  • Customize social media ads and paid campaigns based on factors like location or audience segmentation.

Take a Hybrid Approach

In 2020, for the first time in quite a while, physical books outsold their digital counterparts. This may be a larger sign that perhaps, as the Digital Marketing Institute shared, “the e-book bubble has burst, somewhat.” But it’s also an important signal for publishing companies developing their digital media buying strategies. 

While it’s true that book hard copies are in vogue once again, digital media strategies are still an important way to connect with consumers. Digital marketing tactics work well when paired with more traditional promotional communications. Because of this, publishers can now cast a wide net to reach various consumer touchpoints and connect with the right audiences by mixing promotional tactics. 

Take, for example, Penguin Random House. The publishing giant saw that while physical book sales were holding steady, they wanted to tap into a more digital realm by taking a hybrid approach. To do this, they launched their own podcast, bringing on big-name guests that would appeal to their target demographics: Those who read 21 books per year (or more), and those who consume more digital content than the average consumer. 

Through strategically inviting popular guests, encouraging engaging concepts and dialogue, and building organic calls-to-action like listening to audiobook previews on their website or SoundCloud account, this podcast connected with a huge audience. 

Just how successful was their podcast launch? Penguin Random House earned 220,000 hours (or 13 million minutes) of listening time in its first year, and audiobooks became the quickest-growing sector for their business.

Embrace the Video Format

Whether you publish news media, magazines, newspapers, online periodicals, physical books, or novels, publishing is all about spreading the written word. But, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t room in your digital media strategy for video.

Back in 2020, State of Digital Publishing predicted that 82 percent of digital content would be video by this year. For publishers, this may seem counterintuitive, but it accomplishes quite a few things. First, videos are a smart way to attract readers, but they can also help diversify your distribution channels. 

What’s more, digital video media can help flesh out your website and improve site performance with users. In fact, articles with embedded videos perform better than those without; they have lower bounce rates. Because, according to the State of Digital Publishing, consumers spend more time on sites with engaging videos.

One big way that video impacts your brand is through Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Google’s algorithms are valuing sites with videos over those that lack thereof. Also, there’s less competition on a search engine results page. You can publish videos to your page, share them on social media, and even use YouTube to drive consumers to your website.

Get Expert Support

Americans may be consuming more news and reading more books, but the pandemic has also likely forever changed the way we as a culture consume media. Ebook sales increased. Audiobooks are on the rise. Popular book topics reflect what’s happening in the news. 

There’s a lot of change happening in the worlds of physical and digital publishing, and likewise, digital media strategies are evolving too. 

It’s a lot to keep up with. 

At MBI, we’re committed to helping you develop digital media strategies that make sense for today, and the future. We’ll help you develop a media buying plan that will put your name in front of the right audience, and leverage our industry connections to help your marketing budget go farther than ever before. We’ll keep up so you don’t have to.

To learn more about how we can help, connect with our team of expert media strategists today