Case Study Lesson: Mad Mariner’s User-Generated Content Tactics

This week’s Subscription Site Insider Case Study features the Mad Mariner, a site visited by more than 70,000 unique boating enthusiasts each month. One of the lessons we learned from site publisher Glen Justice was that you have to test different types of interactive content to find exactly what will engage and inspire your audience.

Magazine sites often throw up a message board or add commenting capability to their articles and assume that’s all it will take to turn passive readers into engaged community members. And it might — or it might not. Some audiences might not be big commenters. Other niches might already have successful, well-established message boards that are going to attract most of the discussion for your target audience. On the other hand, sites from a “membership” background often try pushing Facebook-style member profiles to get that reader interaction… but not every demographic will be enthralled by this. And even those that are, may have their needs met completely by Facebook and LinkedIn already.When that happens, you’ve got to find that piece that will keep readers interacting with your site, so your traffic pleases your advertisers and subscription sales soar.

Through trial and error, the Mad Mariner team discovered their readers *love* participating in surveys and polls. They’ve since developed regular features, such as an annual boater’s survey, and one-off themed polls, such as “scariest moment on the water” or “memorable journeys” that are getting hundreds or thousands of responses!

The surveys also act as a viral marketing tactic. Readers help spread survey requests to their peers, and then Mad Mariner uses the results to create unique content that gets shared again to attract new visitors, and so on and so on. Audience surveys are working great for Mad Mariner — and they might work well for other niche enthusiast sites. The key is to keep testing those kinds of ideas until you’ve found something that works for you.If you’d like to learn more about Mad Mariner’s business Model, our complete Case Study is here.

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