Since the middle of last August, we’ve been running Punchnel’s: a daily literary magazine on the web. We’ve learned a lot of things about marketing content for content’s sake. Here are a few lessons from seven months of publishing:
1. Audience grows meaningfully over time. Since we began publishing, we’ve had more than 21,000 unique visitors. That’s a lot of people who’ve been exposed to messages on Punchnel’s. It didn’t happen all at once, but tens, hundreds, at a time. About 48 percent came more than once. Nearly 10 percent visited 50 times or more–an average of more than twice a week.
2. Some people read Internet magazines. More people read the Internet like it’s a magazine. This, we think, is an important distinction. About a quarter of our visitors come looking for Punchnel’s: they either type our address into their browser or our name into a search engine. This means that about three-quarters of our readers visited because of a link to a specific story or a hit from a search engine. The takeaway is that, while Internet users do have magazines they visit frequently–Huffington Post, The Daily Beast, Salon, Slate, even Punchnel’s–they also delve into sorts of sites for a specific story or two.
Think about this in terms of your own Internet behavior. How many times have you clicked on a Facebook link you think looks interesting, and it takes you to the web version of a local newspaper, a pop culture site you’ve never heard of, or a site you visit occasionally but never type into your web browser? You may not consciously choose to consume a lot of web magazines. But you probably do sometimes consume the web as if it’s one, big magazine.
3. Facebook is the 800-pound gorilla of traffic sources. At least for Punchnel’s, this is true. About half of all visits to the site come in through Facebook. In comparison, only about five percent come in through Twitter.
Is Twitter worth the effort? Yes. Twitter visits have grown over time, and continue to climb as our followers and our influence increase. Twitter also gives us the possibility, through hashtagging, of connecting with a broader audience in a way that Facebook does not. They also average slightly more time on site than Facebook visitors.
But Facebook is clearly invaluable. If we had to choose only one social medium, we’d double down on Facebook.
4. The World Wide Web is local. We’re used to thinking of the Internet as giving us the ability to reach out to everyone–and it’s true. While most of our traffic is from the U.S., Punchnel’s has had thousands of visitors from 120 visitors around the world.
But the World Wide Web is also local. More than half of visits to Punchnel’s originated in Indiana, and our most popular posts involve local issues. Our Insider’s Guide To Indianapolis For Super Bowl Visitors was extremely popular, and other stories related to local issues–our post that questioned the boundaries of Downtown Indianapolis and John Beeler‘s visit to the Libertine, a local mixology bar–have had more visits than almost any other posts we’ve run.
It’s a delicate balance, playing to the strength of local-focused content without losing sight of the larger, global audience out there.
5. Have an opinion. Better yet, disagree with someone—or everyone. So far with nearly 900 pageviews, Punchnel’s single, most successful piece of written content has been “Five Reasons I Hate Modern Family.” Even though it was published in October 2011 and is now buried under hundreds of stories, poems, Punchlists, and reviews, this piece still catches new search traffic every week.
With nearly 90 variations of the search phrase “I hate Modern Family,” well over 260 unique searches have ended right on this Punchnel’s article. And over 230 visits have come from referrals. When it was published, it spread like wildfire among a two-month-old audience because apparently plenty of people think Modern Family is awful—and even more people don’t know how to get through their week without it.
6. There’s always, always more. We know that in these first seven months we’ve only started to see to the possibilities—and challenges—of running an online magazine like Punchnel’s. But around here, that’s just the stuff we breathe. We geek out on great content and finding new contributors and readers to join in—and, of course, being a part of something we love, which in the perfect end is the only thing that really matters. Because, to be entirely honest, it’s not like we’re getting rich off of it—not yet, anyway.