Oct 2, 2018

Ezines — Digital Hipster Garbage or Content Marketing Prose?

Print is dead. No one actually reads anymore, especially nothing longform. Emojis, hashtags and gifs have replaced the need to use real words. If you’re going to reach your target audience, it’s time to invest in video production for social.

How many times have marketers made such bold proclamations? How many of these proclamations are based on digital marketing fads that lack the facts and figures to back them up?

Here’s a fact: Americans spend an average of 15 minutes reading magazines every day. While the number of magazines in the U.S. has stayed consistent over the years, the number of magazine readers has increased since 2012.

So should your business start a print magazine? No. Should it start an ezine? Maybe.

What Is An Ezine?

An ezine is simply an electronic magazine that caters to a niche market. Just like a traditional print magazine, readers pay and/or receive a free subscription to read the content, which may be produced monthly, bimonthly, etc. Don’t confuse ezines with their subculture counterpart — zines.

Zines are most often handmade, self-published periodicals that litter the bedrooms and bookshelves of anarchists and hippies alike. Made popular in the 70s and 80s with the advent of new printing technology — namely Xerox machines — these short-form “magazines” cover topics ranging from mental illness to The Misfits. Today, they’ve woven their way back into hipster and pop culture alike. Kanye West even has one.

Ezines, on the other hand, are corporate publications used by businesses that have the creative wheelhouse to write and design unique, valuable copy in a long-form layout, again and again. The key is again and again. If your marketing department or agency doesn’t have the creative bandwidth or content it takes to create a publication on a monthly, bimonthly, or even quarterly basis — don’t set yourself up for failure. If it does, keep reading.

How Can an Ezine Help Your Business?

Why incorporate ezines into your overall content marketing strategy? Unlike the owned and paid media your company throws out into the abyss, this content is delivered to people who actually want to read it. They want to read it so badly they signed up to engage with it on a regular basis.

By default, an ezine subscription list is more specific and targeted than your email marketing lists because these readers are self-selected. They’re not even concerned with their legal right to opt out of the content, because they’ve already opted in. With this established reader base, you can use your content to strengthen brand loyalty, drive traffic to your website, introduce new products and services, and generate leads.

Five Elements to Creating An Ezine

Similar to any marketing undertaking, creating an ezine must start with strategy. There are five essential elements to creating an ezine.

1. Audience Development

If you already know and understand your buyer personas — presumably your targeted audience for this ezine — then you already know what type of content they’re looking for. Find an interest, need or category that they care about and build your entire publication around it.

2. Content Planning

Brainstorm content ideas, issues and themes. Build an editorial calendar that lays the loose groundwork for what the publication will entail one month from now, five months from now, one year from now. This editorial calendar will also dictate your publication schedule, or how often you are producing new content. Once you have a backlog of ideas, develop a voice and tone guide and style guide that will guide your copy moving forward.

3. Design Integration

Once you have enough content to fill these hypothetical pages, it’s time to bring in design. Work with a designer or team to a create mood board, choose typography, copy hierarchy, photography styles, colors, design for website versus mobile reading, and more. The look and feel of the ezine is just as important as the words on each page.

4. Hosting Platforms

Next, decide whether the ezine will be hosted on your website or a third-party site. If the publication is hosted on your website, how will readers navigate to it? Will readers log in to a portal to access the content? Will it live as gated content that requires a contact form? How will new readers sign up to receive the content? Will it be viewable as a digital publication or downloadable PDF? If hosted on a third-party site, these same questions apply.

5. Amplification

Last but not least, how will you build your subscription base and promote this new content to your buyer personas? Will it be promoted via your company blogs, emails, social media and paid advertisements? How will this amplification strategy change or remain the same with the announcement of a new ezine each month, quarter or year?

Do you still think your business should create an ezine? If so, bravo. It’s not that print media, long-form copy or real damn words are dead — it’s that it requires a massive, thoughtful undertaking to string the content all together and then find an audience that actually cares. But if you have the content and the audience for it, you can create something truly wonderful.

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