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Mother Jones and the A/B Test

The other day I was reading the latest Mother Jones and came across an interesting note from the editor. They talked about the importance and difficulty of choosing a magazine cover and that despite the fact that they are a non-profit, they still rely heavily on reader support through sales. So when the time came to decide between the crisis in Haiti and Weedmart as the cover – they chose both. How? Subscribers got the Haiti cover and newsstands got Weedmart to reach non-subscribers.

mother jones Mother Jones and the A/B Test

This decision came from an understanding that the crisis in Haiti was a heavy read, not exactly the best material for killing time at the airport. So they put the intriguing, more lighthearted cover to capture new readers (perhaps a younger audience too) and the heavier, more hard hitting piece on the cover for regular readers. Smart move. It is also a great offline example of an important practice still not prevalent enough in the online world – active A/B testing.

In addition, Mother Jones has also stopped printing letters to the editor since most of their readers’ comments come through Facebook and Twitter and they can use that precious space in print editions for more content. Mother Jones has seen a 61% increase in digital revenue over the past year and their print circulation is up when most print publications are near death.

If a non-profit publisher can find a way to thrive in a struggling industry, you can too. It’s a matter of thoughtful marketing and a smart approach that factors in testing and adaptability to a shifting landscape. Whether it’s simple A/B testing with your home page or more complex multivariate testing with PPC landing pages it’s time to start actively experimenting with what messaging and images resonate with your audience. For inspiration, surprises and general entertainment check out Which Test Won. You might be surprised how small changes have big results.

 Mother Jones and the A/B Test

Rachel Freeman

Rachel Freeman works for the Jive Software, the pioneer and leading provider of social business solutions. She has expertise in all aspects of search engine marketing and specializes in SEO and paid search for the B2B sector. Freeman has been responsible for the development and execution of countless search and social marketing campaigns over her years in the search marketing industry.

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One thought on “Mother Jones and the A/B Test

  1. Was this really an A/B test, or just targeting audiences? Wouldn’t a test be putting both covers on the newsstand and seeing which version sold more? Were there success metrics in this test that they used to see which cover was more successful?