What does competition mean online?

October 6, 2008

In the magazine industry, we always keep an eye on our competitors, the magazines that we think readers might choose over ours at the bookstore, or whose subscribers we might lure away. To a certain degree, it’s a zero-sum game: the assumption is that most people (and this excludes us magazine addicts in the industry) will only buy a finite number of magazines every month and that we need to work hard to be one of their picks by competing with other magazines in our niche.

Online, the world’s quite different. For one thing, we’re not just competing with other magazines’ websites: we’re also competing with the rest of the web, and not just in Canada, either. On the one hand, it’s a somewhat daunting prospect. But on the other, it gives you room to breathe. After all, you’re not trying to sell an entire issue to people, just individual pieces of content (hopefully frequently). In the same way someone might read an entire magazine in an hour or two, they can read many different articles (and other types of content) from many different websites. Just because they choose to read Glamour doesn’t mean they won’t read Fashion, Flare, Elle and In Style in the same evening (not to mention glam.com, Sweetspot.ca and FabSugar).

So when you’re thinking of your website’s competition, think big and think small. Recognize that you’re not just competing with the newsstand, you’re competing with the whole world. But also recognize that readers are fickle – a high bounce rate on an article doesn’t mean they didn’t enjoy it, it just means they’ve moved on for now, as most of us do when browsing the web. The key is to keep them coming back.

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