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January 5, 2016 // 7:00 AM

Resolutions Your Publication Should Make in 2016

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No matter what industry you’re in, the first weeks of January always feel like a big storm has hit and passed. In a few weeks, your year is going to start ramping up again, and 2016 will start to feel like a routine. Big projects will start to take off, and you’ll miss those ‘moments between the lines’ that you’ve loved for brainstorming, tinkering, and exploring.

Remember that downtime is cyclic: it won’t last forever. As you begin to ramp up for the new year, don't look solely at major changes you can make at your company. Focus also on housekeeping, and find subtle ways to accomplish the things that you’ve otherwise been putting off. Many times, these smaller improvements can snowball into larger projects or initiatives.

Here are a few ideas to get you started with both large and small changes for your publication:

1) Get Your Lists in Shape

No matter how engaged your email list might be, your performance benchmarks could still be better. Why? Over time, email lists become clogged machines. Once-active subscribers lose interest, your value proposition starts being relevant, and audiences stop paying attention to your messaging.

No matter what steps you take to course-correct this pattern, you can’t. Instead, you should embrace your shifting audience base and get your lists in shape. Take some basic steps to make sure that you’re working with your cleanest lists possible:

  • Phase out your ‘aged’ non-engaging subscribers
  • Trim down contacts who aren’t essential to your core business (i.e. trim down the fat)
  • Eyeball your segments to make sure that groupings are still relevant and make sense

With your audiences returning from vacation, the beginning of the year is a great time to clean up your lists and make sure that everything is in check.

2) Commit to Sending Fewer Emails

With a new year comes new energy. You might feel many bursts of inspiration, along with a desire to fire off some new email campaigns.

Do yourself a favor and hold back: your audiences don’t share your same enthusiasm. As interested as they might be in your company, their attention spans are spread thin across the hundreds of emails that they’re receiving each day. Instead of sending more messages, make each note count more. Here’s a simple set of exercises to try:

  • Rather than planning out 10 emails to send, figure out 10 creative ways to segment your lists
  • Determine how to make each email more impactful among the segments that you’ve defined
  • A/B test several varations of your newsletter, tweaking both headlines and body content

You might consider reaching out to your customers and subscribers and asking to conduct qualitative interviews. Start by diving deep into the efficacy of your current email campaigns. Figure out what you can do better. For maximum impact, tailor improvements to specific customer segments.

3) Put Mobile First

When it comes to your mobile strategy, the days of comfortable procrastination are over. As of May 2015, Google says that there are now more searches on mobile than on desktop devices.

Consumers are relying on mobile to find critical information, and you can’t afford to lag behind. From your email campaigns to your core browsing experience, you need to ensure a mobile responsive look and feel (at the very least). Focus on your landing pages and newsletter campaigns to start with and use website analytics data to determine where on your site you should focus next.

Mobile may be mainstream, but it’s not too late to get ahead of the curve and develop an amazing mobile experience. The beginning of 2016 is a great time to prioritize mobile as a core part of your strategic vision. 

4) Go on the Offense Against Ad Blockers

For the last several years, ad blockers have been on the rise. Publishers are well-aware of this fact: according to one report, there are now 198 million active adblock users around the world, with publishers losing tens of billions of dollars a year, as a result.

The reason for this trend is simple: consumers have spent years feeling deceived by the advertising industry, and they’re tired of it. For online audiences, time is a valuable asset, and few people want to spend their time x-ing out of unnecessary pop-up windows with irrelevant messaging.

It’s time for publishers to go on the office against ad blockers. But the trick here isn’t to fight this consumer behavior: it’s to embrace it. Instead of forcing audiences to sit through ads that they don’t want to see, focus on diversifying your revenue streams.

If you’re looking for a good resource to point you in the right direction, check out HubSpot’s 2015 Publisher Benchmarks Report. Cliff notes: the media industry is going through significant change, and it’s a great time to innovate. Print is on its way out, new tech adoption is on the rise, and publishers are exploring revenue options beyond subscriptions.

The beginning of 2016 is a great time to sit back and brainstorm alternative ways to monetize. Think about education products that you can create, webinars you can host, events that you can organize, and creative ways that your media company can deliver value to both audiences and advertisers.

Get Moving

What these New Year’s resolutions share in common is that they’re all long-term: you’ll need more than early January to implement these major audience engagement initiatives. The point is that you need to get started. Time flies, and it will be 2017 in no time.

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