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Magazine sales tips should always be adapted to the current situation in the publishing industry, which changes practically from year to year. This is especially important in the case of digital publications, where business models are based on online purchases.

It raises new challenges headed by sales funnel modification, about what many articles about magazine sales tips don’t say. To achieve financial goals, publishers should understand the necessity of shift the revenue model from paid-in-dollars to paid-in-data.

Consequently, they will realize the potential of their own distribution channels like the website, newsletter, or news app to build a loyal returning audience. After some time, it’ll turn out that this group is the largest percentage of paying subscribers.

It’s time for magazine sales tips tailored to the present publishing reality.

Magazine sales tips – new look

Topics such as magazine sales tips shouldn’t be considered as evergreen content.

Firstly, they are heavily dependent on external variables such as changing readers’ habits, technology trends, or unexpected situations, like the Covid-19 pandemic which forced many entrepreneurs to change their business models. Secondly, every situation is different and there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

What’s more, we shouldn’t treat magazine sales tips as a numbered list of several or a dozen unrelated hints – I’ll take this and this and this, then will glue with each other and my magazine issues will be sold immediately, bringing an increase in revenue.

It doesn’t work that way.

An individual sales funnel strategy is necessary for magazine publishing today; this is a process, in which one thing implies the other. You need to understand what path your readers are going through the entire purchasing process; to discover at which stage they quit (and why they do it), and what determines their decisions. Everything has to be embedded in the ongoing reality.

To help you increase your online magazine sales we’ve prepared a special step-by-step guide different from any other.

It won’t give you the ready, sorted magazine sales tips you can pick from the list, implement, and wait for results. Instead, it’ll help you understand the process from the moment of catching first-time visitors to gaining paying subscribers.

sales funnel for magazine publishers

We’ll go through the most important steps in building an online magazine sales strategy that will show you how important each one is, what role it plays, and will help you to understand what you still need to work on.

Most of all, you’ll see that the path to increasing sales magazine doesn’t have to be long and complicated.

STEP A. Magazine sales tips – first-time website visitors

The knowledge about the source from which the readers are directed to your website is extremely important, the same as the reason why they click and enter into a page.

Whether we are talking about promoting a magazine on social media, implementing SEO techniques, or using word-of-mouth marketing, many publishers focus mainly on how many visitors these actions attracted, while the time of visit on the website is much more important.

The probability that a first-time visitor enters your website and buys a single issue or clicks subscribe button is – let’s be honest – low, but the chance that he makes other, non-purchase action is much higher. Even if the visit lasts several dozens of seconds it can be turned into something good.

Let’s assume that the process of magazine promoting has already been behind you. The moment we are now is called the top of our sales funnel – many people come to your website looking for something. Just to be clear, they won’t subscribe, they won’t buy anything. Not now.

the top of the magazine sales funnel

Your goal at this stage is to make them come back and you can achieve it in two ways:

  • encourage them to share their e-mail address with you, offering some value in return,
  • make them interested in the content on the website, so they click somewhere that gives you a pixel.

What to offer to the visitor who comes to your website for the first time?

The New Yorker Case Study

  • They adopt a banner ad which used to be popular in the beginnings of online advertising. The thing is that they do it in their own innovative way. Their internal small banner appears on their website in the upper left corner after a while of being on the site. It is visible but not disturbing. Under the short slogan (“Journalism that matters”), there’s an invitation to subscribe.

the new yorker case study

  • On the opposite side, in the top right corner, there is a clearly visible subscription button. Just next to it there are two clickable options: “Sign In” and “Newsletter”. Website visitors have a choice and certainly wonder what to click (we suppose that the first-time visitors choose a free newsletter more often than a paying option). The point is, no matter what visitors choose, The New Yorker gets their e-mail addresses.

First-time visitors explore your website briefly. Only if something interested them, they stay longer. They are also more willing to click to get something for free rather than pay for something they don’t know.

The secret is always in a click, as a result of which you’ll gain address e-mail or pixel. In both of these cases, the content plays the first fiddle.

Whether you propose an educational infographic or inspirational video, educational content or newsletter, it’s the value visitors can have without anything in return. Thanks to this, a trust relationship is established. That’s why the publishing industry should focus on loyalty products.

Situation 1 – the visitors sign up for the newsletter

  • One of the factors in deciding if a person becomes a subscriber is whether they signed up for your newsletter or not. Newsletters create a deeper connection with the consumers of each brand but also refer to the concept of membership. The newsletter is a conversation, dialogue, community in which readers feel deeply connected with your brand. This knowledge is perfectly used by one of our customers, what you can read about in the Romania Insider Case Study.
  • To encourage people to sign up, put a non-aggressive, non-invasive pop-up somewhere on your website, informing them about obtaining free value they get after entering the e-mail address: course, e-book, guide, tips, articles. People interested in the content you propose will share their e-mail addresses with you to get it. Then you’ll be able to create a list of e-mails belonging to website visitors who are curious about your content.

Situation 2 – the visitors click on the article on the website

  • If you have a pixel installed on your website, you gather information about visitors, provided that they perform some action and click on something. A pixel collects behavior data that helps you send ads to these visitors after they leave the website.
  • If you know your readers and their needs, you can easily place on your website the content they surely click on. Offer the visitors, let’s say, 2-3 key catchy topics and put them in a visible place. It can be evergreen content, or even something controversial (but without an exaggeration). It makes people click on what interests them the most and the process of targeting ads begins.

As a result of each of these two actions, you get an e-mail or tracking code which – at this stage – matters more than the purchase of the magazine issue. These two items will help you profile your visitor, and encourage them to come back to you.

It’s time to use them wisely.

STEP B. Magazine sales tips – returning readers

Here is the moment, when you’ve got two lists prepared:

  • people who signed up for your newsletter,
  • people who visited your website and clicked on something.

Use them to encourage first-time visitors to come back to your website. How to do it?

Remember that this is not the sales stage.

This is the moment in which people get to know about your offer, explore it and get used to it. In the effect, brand awareness increases.

Readers need a lot of contacts with the content and the brand to make a purchasing decision.

That’s why you should focus on giving potential customers some content value because loyalty comes from product experience. People who have already visited your website should get something special, what presents the brand to them and gets them used to its presence.

The natural effect of getting free value is to return to the website. It’s the process of habit formation. We are in the middle of our funnel now.

the middle of the magazine sales funnel

At this stage, the goal is to arrange a second meeting with the brand. You can achieve it thanks to arousing in people the need to be with your content again. Use two lists you’ve already had and:

  • send the great newsletter to people who signed up for it,
  • prepare encouraging ads that will be seen by people who were on your website and clicked on something.

How to prepare content encouraging people to come back to the website?

The Washington Post Case Study

  • The Washington Post creates a short daily briefing called The 7 that highlights seven of its top stories of the day. It is designed to take just three minutes to read or listen to.


  • “The 7’s launch signals a smart strategy to get people to spend more time with the brand. The more time someone is spending with the brand, the better The Washington Post understands who that user is and can build that direct one-to-one relationship with the user,” said Kerel Cooper, CMO of e-mail marketing platform LiveIntent.
  • Thanks to this strategy, The Post can create audience segments, curate content individually for them, and also offer those audiences to advertisers.

We could call this moment “the content stage”. There’s no place to offer paid products here. The purpose is to re-engage people who visited your site but did not take any purchasing action or inquired about your services.

Let’s take a closer look at the content you have to prepare.

In the case of the newsletter, it’s pretty obvious that the content is just everything that e-mail includes. What about the ad? Is content equal to the ad’s look?

Not exactly. Of course, it plays a huge role in encouraging the user to click, but we’re talking about what this ad is going to lead to.

Both newsletter and ad, at the middle of the sales funnel, should offer one-time visitors free, valuable content. It’s too early to give them profits like discounts.

On the stage of building trust in the brand, the good idea is to offer people educational content, instead of a catalog of products.

marketing guide

Situation 1 – the visitors get the newsletter

  • By offering a properly adjusted newsletter to people, you increase the chance that one-time visitors will come back to the website and do some action there. Distributing content via free e-mail builds trust in the brand and content, provides needed, free, valuable content that is the greatest incentive to buy.
  • The good practice is to direct one newsletter to the first-time visitor, and another to someone who was on the website a few times. Focus on educational content, interesting statistics, etc. It can be dissuasive to present an offer of paid issues in the first e-mail. You can also put some links inside the newsletter leading to your articles.

Situation 2 – the visitors see the ad

  • The advertisement, just as a newsletter, may offer free content like e-book, tutorials, etc. Create a piece of content that answers top questions for your current prospects or offer a free sample of your magazine.
  • Readers click on the ad which interests them and are taken to your site. Every ad can be linked with the advertiser’s website or a specific landing page, where people can leave their e-mail address in exchange for free content. Thanks to this, you’ll gain the next list of people who were on your website once and then clicked on your ad.

What’s important, stage two (the middle of the funnel) can lead straight to stage three (the bottom of the funnel), or… it may last longer. Sometimes, people come back to your website and take the action after they get one e-mail or see one ad. In many cases, the visit happens after and a few e-mails or advertisements should be delivered.

The Jacobson Flare News App Case Study

The news apps could be placed as an example on each of all three funnel stages we presented. However, based on the experience of our customers, we can safely say that the news app can be used the most effectively in the middle of the funnel and the Jacobson Flare is the best example to prove it.

The Jacobson Flare News App – PressPad News

Name: The Jacobson Flare


About: The Jacobson Flare is a landing training technique invented by David Jacobson. Now, he educates pilots and students in this field by running a website, blog, gives speeches, and more. In one word, he has a multichannel content strategy.

The first app: When David turned to PressPad a few years ago he needed a mobile app thanks to which he could distribute content to his audience. The goal was clear: “To share what I learned” – David said. This is how the first app was created.

It’s a paid PDF mobile app, the simple electronic equivalent of a 330-page book; interactive and inclusive, called by David “complete Jacobson Flare app, for iOS and Android”.

The second app: After some time David asked us to create another mobile app. This time it was a free companion app to the complete paid one. It includes news, tips, articles, and tons of great content.

The Jacobson Flare news app created by PressPad

The role of the news app: The free content distributed via mobile app plays the role of lead magnet, encouraging people to download the paid app.

As David said: “It now appears that some pilots download the free Jacobson Flare News App and then are further intrigued and inspired to purchase the paid JF App for iOS and Android. Our sales numbers are confidential, but thousands of pilots in 67 nations have purchased the paid app.”


STEP C. Magazine sales tips – paying subscribers

Who are they?

People who became loyal fans as the result of getting valuable content. They know the brand, are close to it, need your content, and appreciate your effort. The free content you deliver led to strengthening the ties with the brand and created the habit of reading your content on a regular basis.

Finally, they are those who notice that what they get is worth paying for.

This is the bottom of our sales funnel.

magazine sales tips funnel approach

Paying subscribers don’t represent a numerous group; only a fraction of the first-time visitors will reach this stage. However, it is said that this is the audience that needs to be taken care of the most. What can you offer them? Access to the extra content, a free month of access, tickets to the event, etc. It should be something that makes them feel special and gives them a sense of belonging to an exclusive club.

The goal is to make subscriber stays with the brand for longer and buy a subscription more than once.

How to retain subscribers?

Situation 1 – subscribers get the newsletter

  • Newsletters which was sent to first-time visitors may not be proper to someone who knows you well and buys your products. If you have their e-mail database, you can boldly propose something more at this stage: special discounts or participation in special events.
  • Don’t be shy to ask subscribers by e-mail what they want to get, what kind of content should you prepare. You may find that you get tips and inspiration for many articles and newsletters.

Situation 2 – subscriber see the ad

  • Do you remember what kind of ad you should create for someone who visits your website for the first time? This time, it doesn’t have to be educational content. You can put something different on the ad – information about sales, discounts, products.
  • You can create a lookalike audience from purchasers. This will be your cold audience. What to do with it? Create an ad, capture e-mail addresses, send newsletters or other valuable content, etc.

Purchase of your product by readers isn’t the end of the path, but a next step. Based on the people who purchased access to your content create a custom audience once again. A mailing list created from the addresses of people who decided to purchase gives you the opportunity to stay in touch: you can send them announcements, discounts, surveys, and product news.

The Wall Street Journal Case Study
  • The important strategy for retaining subscribers is to pay attention to how they behave. It’s a way to understand what they actually tell you. The Wall Street Journal created a special team to start “Project Habit”. The goal was to identify what specific user actions by new subscribers within their first 100 days indicate likelihood to renew their subscription.

The Wall Street Journal Case Study

  • They saw that there are dozens of habits different from app downloading and newsletter subscribing, that clearly reduce churn. It’s an example showing how to use the newfound data to diversify and optimize their existing communications.

If you want to retain subscribers, you have to pay attention to what they say by gathering feedback and tracking their behavior. Then, you have to adapt your content strategy and business practices to serve their needs as well as you can.

Just as it is important to identify buyers, it is also necessary to discover why people resign from buying.

Special magazine sales tips

What you’ve just read, it isn’t a typical “magazines sales tips article” you’ve probably seen many times on the Internet. Our goal was to make you aware of how important it is in the life of a publisher to understand the path readers take to becoming a subscriber.

Instead of creating a list of tips which don’t constitute a common, unified strategy, we wanted to give you one-of-a-kind important advice – you should create sales funnels. As you can see, it doesn’t have to be 10 complicated steps, sometimes 3 is enough.

The content you offer, whatever it is (magazine, book, publication, comic book), is a product for sale today.

As a publisher, you should take care of every step of your content purchase – from the one-time visitor, and someone who returns to paying subscribers and so on.

To earn effectively, you need to have a content strategy, be aware of your sales funnel and invest in retention. Digital publishing with all its analytics side gives a possibility to do it effectively. It’s a way that allows you to increase the retention of your brand at a relatively low cost.

If you would like to consult any of the levels of your sales funnel strategy, please don’t hesitate to ask us.