How National Geographic is using archived content to woo modern audiences

Magazine publisher shares its content marketing strategy and the technology helping to support it


Content marketing has shown tremendous growth in recent years, as brands scramble to find ways to engage and retain the attention of increasingly-distracted audiences.

For US-based magazine publisher, National Geographic, its content marketing strategy is not about creating new. Rather, it is investing in bringing to life an inventory of content that stretches back to 1888, and using that to build and retain its audience.

National Geographic has been working with Australian software developer, Realview, to convert PDFs of its paper-based archives into a searchable database, creating a pool of content that can also be used to shine a light on the events of today.

According to National Geographic’s senior manager for marketing and engagement, Justin Droms, the archive has proven a key attraction for both new and old subscribers.

“As other organisations might deepen relationships with discounts or giveaways, we really focus at National Geographic on deepening relationships by curating really great digital content,” he says.

Droms says archive content is consistently one of the things that gets the most clicks in National Geographic’s email newsletters, and is proving critical to the publishers’ plans to convert subscribers from a print-only subscription.

“The fact that we can mention that along with your National Geographic subscription you will get access to every issue since 1888 helps lift response,” Droms says. “Telling people about this huge archive, especially when we can point out how it is related to some of the current content, is more effective than a bunch of other techniques for getting out print-only folks to digitally activate.”

Droms says working with Realview also helps the company curate its archives in a way that is intelligent and relevant.

“Their platform enables us to be creative,” he says. “If we want to create a collection of our best articles about a given location, or our best articles about Jacques Cousteau or Jane Goodall, we can. We have also begun pinning articles to their geographic location on an interactive map.

“In a world where every time there is something in the news, there are a few thousand articles about it that say something similar, it really is unique for us to say something different, such as ‘look at this article we wrote before Fidel Castro came to power in Cuba’, or ‘when we visited Cuba 100 years ago’.”

Chief executive officer at Realview, Richard Lindley, says National Geographic is representative of many clients who understand the value of their archives and are putting them to work in customer attraction and retention. He says the company’s latest release, Partica, goes one step further by simplifying the process of consumers subscribing via mobile, and enables PDFs to be more easily broken down into individual articles.

Lindley also sees a strong opportunity for Partica outside of traditional publishers, including organisations that produce large numbers of brochures, such as tourism operators.

“With the change towards content marketing, everyone is a publisher these days,” Lindley says. “We are looking at companies that have a marketing budget, that need to get people on mobile, and that have print publications, but not necessarily the knowledge or the money to get things into a mobile format.

“The Sydney Guide is now on-board, and it is kind of exciting, because visitors’ guides on mobile are great.”

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