Nature and Nurture: 6 Things Every Publisher Should Know About Marketing Content

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Publishers are natural content marketers—while other industries must generate new content to be successful “content marketers,” publishers already have a treasure trove of it and create more every day. 

But scholarly and professional publishers have traditionally seen themselves as content curators and nurturers, not content marketers. Much of their staff were—or still are—scholars and professionals in their respective fields, after all. 

To remain competitive, online publishers must market their content to distinguish it and their brand from the competitions’ and to deepen relationships with their readers (who don’t think of themselves as “institutional” users but use scholarly websites that treat them as such).

In short, to get readers to visit more often and stay longer, publishers must give readers both the content they want and the user experiences they expect—the kind of engaging experiences they find on the consumer and social media websites they visit when not wearing their scholar’s cap.

The six marketing technologies and tactics below are all borrowed from successful consumer website strategies. By adapting them to scholarly and professional journal content, publishers can propel themselves beyond passively delivering content to actively marketing it to increase their sales and readership—all without jeopardizing the academic integrity of their content or abandoning the professionalism that their websites must convey.

1. Promotion: Although they may not use the term “push marketing” to describe it, this is something most scholarly publishers already do: publishers tell registered users about new and existing content through on-site notifications like pop-up notices and off-site email notifications like eTOC alerts. 

2. Personalization: Going one step further, publishers can leverage data on readers’ identities and site behavior to personalize these promotions. Collaborative filtering technology that segments readers into groups with similar interests can target readers with the ads and offers that will most appeal to them. And “more like this” algorithms—the kind Amazon uses to prompt you to buy books on linguistics after you purchase one on the history of the English language—let publishers surface content beyond what readers are looking for and predict the content (and advertising) that will interest them.

3. Consumerization: If the easiest thing to do on a website is download a PDF, then that’s all readers are likely to do. But a scholarly website is chock full of other content. Modern user interfaces (UIs), frequently refreshed content, and intuitive user experiences (UXs) that work well on whatever device the user chooses, are reflective of the sites that your readers visit daily, from eBay to the New York Times to Facebook. When transferred to scholarly sites, these tactics make your site easier to navigate and stickier—and its content more valuable.

4. Discoverability: Readers can’t engage with content that they don’t know exists. Understanding how search engine optimization (SEO) works and finding a way to easily and/or automatically tag your content to comply with search engine algorithms means readers are more likely to find your content— before finding similar content on a competitor’s site. Hosting multiple content types on your website—everything from videos and interactive graphics to news and and blogs—gets your site a bigger boost from Google. Enhanced and interactive onsite search technologies like facets and filtering let readers drill down to refine their search results. And predictive search anticipates what they’re searching for, enabling readers to find your content quickly and easily. 

5. Optimization: To become destinations, as opposed to a sporadic stopover for the latest edition of your journal, publication websites must evolve with the changing interests and behaviors of their readers. There are an increasing number of sophisticated ways to collect and track an increasing amount of information: Big Data isn’t just for the Fortune 100 anymore. Profiling and tracking user identities and site behavior can be used to continuously improve websites by keeping content relevant and engaging, product offers attractive, and sales and subscription models effective.

6. Frictionless eCommerce: Readers expect the same kind of intuitive, streamlined, yet feature-rich eCommerce journey they find on their favorite retail websites. By applying proven processes and features like abandoned shopping cart notifications, guest checkout, and user-specific acquisition and search histories, publishers benefit from the increased revenues that derive from making it easy for readers to purchase your content. 

Effective content marketing gives readers what they want: relevant content, engaging websites, interactive search capabilities, and frictionless interfaces—in short, productive research and user experiences. Publishers, in turn, get what they want: more site traffic, more readers, more subscribers, and more revenue.

By adapting proven solutions and strategies from successful consumer websites—and exploiting state-of-the-art target marketing and platform automation technologies to carry them out—publishers can become masters of content marketers.