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5 Ways Digital Publications Can Expand Their Readership

John Tuttle is a journalist with a niche in science, history, and culture who's been featured on ZME Science, Ancient Origins, & elsewhere.

I have worked with the teams of a number of digital publications over the past few years. I mostly contribute written articles, though I have also been getting into podcasting/podcast editing myself. (And I had already been a Youtuber for some time before that.) During my time with these various sites, I have observed common changes which have been put into effect.

These changes have been meant to draw in viewers and gain larger audiences. In some instances, these have been successful. Let's look at five of the most significant areas of media which are being explored and exploited by current digital publications.

1. Video Content

The Internet bombards us with videos constantly in the form of ads, social media, YouTube videos, streaming, etc. However, this is done because marketers realize the effectiveness of this type of visually stimulating media. Digital websites should not merely embed links to other people's videos within their articles, although sometimes that cannot be helped. Regardless, websites regularly publishing text-based content should strive to start their own line of videos.

All the big publications do this. It also serves to assist in better SEO, which gives the publication a stronger overall presence around the web over varying media. Even in my own experience, one of the sites I write for, Digital Fox (which obsesses over cosplay and the field of entertainment), has been producing videos for social media and YouTube ever since I have been with them.

There was even a period during which they cut quite a few of their writers to focus more on producing video content since it was being better-received. And something they are doing is working since they have over 58,000 followers on Facebook.

News stations and big-time publications focus heavily on web interaction with their material and produce their own video content. When posted on YouTube or social media, the narrator or host of the video may leave off with a question, a call to action that would require the viewer to write a comment on the video.

Sometimes, the narrator even requests the viewers to leave a comment. Once again, this is a good (though not so subtle) marketing strategy to make one publication's videos more popular and prominent than those of other websites.

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2. Podcasting and Other Audio Options

Audio has very quickly risen to the way of the future. Podcasts, especially, are the cat's meow of digital content right now. They're "in," and everybody is trying to get in on the action. For some, it is paying off—literally.

I write for various websites. The American Watchmen has had a podcast associated with one of its editors for several years now. But other sites (to which I have contributed) that have developed podcasts include Movie Babble and the highly read Hacker Noon. It is yet another multimedia outlet to explore and promote content on. Videos and podcasts also make for more engaging, authentic ways to record and present conversations, such as interviews.

Other Audio Formats

However, it's not simply podcasts that are becoming popular across various publications. Another trendy thing to do is to offer the publication's written material in audio format. This actually can be immensely helpful to a viewer. For example, if the reader is driving to work or in some other role that does not permit him to physically read the text, he may simply listen to someone else read it for him.

It pretty much runs on the same concept as the audiobook, a form of entertainment that has become widely popular in recent years. Different websites offer this audio kick in different ways. Medium and its domains, for instance, use a program called Play.ht, which converts written articles into audio files narrated by automated voices. Play.ht also provides multiple audio languages to which written content may be converted.

In a slightly different manner, sites such as Ancient.edu (the web's Ancient History Encyclopedia) seek out unique voices, genuine people with a knack for narrating, to present the audio versions of much of their written content. Either way, no matter how the audio is being presented, it is becoming increasingly popular to have it available and easily accessible.

3. Teaming Up

Becoming partners with similar publications or associated companies can be very worthwhile. That said, it can also be a daunting and delicate task. It requires some tact in approaching your digital peers and providing some solid reasons why the relationship would be profitable to both the parties concerned.

Making such connections can be as simple as hosting a sponsor in a contest. It could be anything: a contest calling for entries of writing, photos, social media postings, or anything else you could base judging criteria on. The prize(s) could then be provided by the sponsor, thus promoting the sponsor's business.

You can also attempt to secure other connections with media companies by simply using their services and frequently touting them as beneficial. Bloggers/vloggers do this on a more primitive level as part of their regular income. A company pays them to promote their product or to publish a sponsored post. But it is also done on a more professional level in which A-grade video makers promote certain products in their videos, sometimes providing a discount code unique to their audience.

4. Guest Posting

Guest posting (which may include re-posting), when you are given credit, helps to increase the SEO of you and/or your brand name. It's one of the easiest ways to promote yourself and your publication. There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of websites that would love to publish a useful or interesting article on their page.

However, you need to find a good website whose vision and scope are similar to your own site's. So if you write about movies, search websites that accept movie reviews, listicles, or the like from guest writers. If you are lucky, the editors of such a publication may be willing to publish a short bio along with your work. In that case, this is usually the place you want to mention your own site or publication.

Also, do not be hunting down guest posting opportunities that pay. Those are far and few between. Unless you are a proven freelancer, the vast majority of guest posting opportunities open to you are unpaid. However, you need to be willing to do this kind of thing for free in the hopes of attracting some initial interest in your own publication.

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5. Social Media Outlets

In a world where social media seems to be one of the most important aspects of our lives (when it really is not), having a presence for your publication or business across numerous social media networks has become a big deal. It can have a huge effect on your digital following, social and otherwise.

We already discussed the importance of video content, including that published through social media. Social media, like most media, is a rapidly evolving landscape. As far as businesses are concerned, social media are beneficial in content promotion. So, understandably, it is often important to have sizeable social media followings.

That said, it is even better if a publication has social media outlets attached to all or most of the popular social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, even Instagram (especially if your publication produces a bunch of stunning photography). A few years ago, the job of a social media manager did not exist. Now it is very much an important position.

Applying these strategies may not produce immediate results. However, if multimedia content is uploaded and published regularly and is promoted in various places, a site's chances for exposure, visibility, and popularity are increased.

© 2019 John Tuttle