By Amy Bulger, Wyoming Game and Fish Department
It was a Monday, and my to-do list was 10 items long. Not one of those had to do with growing our magazine readership, yet 49 new subscribers signed up that day while our staff was busy with meetings, page proofs and story edits.
They used a simple checkbox to subscribe to Wyoming Wildlife magazine through our Wyoming Game and Fish Department online licensing portal. Our newest subscribers had gone online to buy licenses and permits and added the magazine to their cart before paying.
The checkbox, which displays only during the checkout process, has proved to be a good low-cost, low-effort addition to our magazine marketing strategies. Though 49 new readers alone won’t turn the curve of slowly declining subscriber numbers, daily numbers add up. In the year since the launch of the checkbox in March 2018, some 1,350 new readers have signed up for Wyoming Wildlife. During those 12 months, we’ve noticed that sales appear to be cyclical with license application deadlines, etc.
The checkbox has helped combat a dilemma many state magazines face: small staffs are being asked to multitask, readers are aging and impacting subscription numbers, and daily efforts are channeled into getting the next magazine to the printer on time. Carving out time for growth planning and marketing understandably falls to the bottom of the to-do list. We adapted the checkbox idea from conversations about successes at the 2017 ACI conference magazine breakout session.
Collaboration with our licensing and IT departments has led us to easily access potential readers already in the act of purchasing Game and Fish items. It took a few months of planning to build the checkbox and develop daily reports for our fiscal section and subscriber service. But now we see how invaluable it is to link the checkbox to the licensing system. It’s easy to get information needed to start a subscription, as customer information is already securely stored in our licensing system, and it’s a good research tool. We can capture emails and look at new subscriber details like: what was purchased during the transaction, where they live, their age and more. It’s a baseline for better understanding our readers and gaining insight into their preferences and interactions.
Knowing the checkbox performs well may be incentive to move it to a more prominent place, such as into the list of licenses and permits in the Buy/Apply link on the Game and Fish home page. This would allow customers to log on to our licensing system specifically to buy the magazine.
That is a nearly effortless marketing tool that can reap big dividends. North Dakota Outdoors has been offering online subscription purchases as one of the main menu items in their Buy/Apply link for more than 10 years. This year, they also added an option for subscription renewal in the same location.
The magazine has over 27,500 subscribers and roughly 3,000 online readers. Some of those subscriptions are free for hunter education graduates, landowners, schools, libraries and volunteer instructors. But more than 11,000 of the magazine’s 19,000 paid subscribers have signed up through the website.
“A good share of our new subscriptions come through the website. It’s been responsible for roughly several thousand new subscriptions a year from people who were buying licenses,” said North Dakota Game and Fish Communications Supervisor Craig Bihrle.
Though still too early to see how renewals are affected, Bihrle knows having subscriptions easily accessible in the online licensing system has helped more new readers discover the magazine.