The Utne Reader experience: Connecting with real change

Keeping loyal subscribers engaged while attracting new readers and advertisers requires taking a magazine beyond the written pages. For nearly 25 years, readers have come to Utne Reader to discover the stories, issues and answers not typically reported by mainstream media, and we’ve used every available resource to make sure our stories connect with what the readers and our advertisers want and need. Lately, events have been helping us deliver on that promise.

Studies and panels tell us that our audience is deeply engaged, thoughtful, affluent and young in body and spirit. Many are journalists and writers themselves. This means that we can connect our marketing partners with a very active and influential consumer audience.

In 2008, advertisers started asking us for more “off-the-page” opportunities, which led to our first series of Utne-branded events.

Our audience includes the sort of person who can be very difficult to reach, so we used reader surveys to discover what interested them most before planning these events. Readers told us they are keenly interested in community-building, politics, democracy, the environment, and cutting-edge solutions or tools for change. We learned they also love music and art and view the Utne experience as one that represents new concepts, new ideas and alternatives to the status quo. They like that we share their optimism and passion for getting involved and improving the world. 

To help bring our community together this year, we held events at the Austin, TX-based alternative music festival South by Southwest in March, which helped us tee up our Independent Press Awards in May. On August 31, we held a press party at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, where our local sponsor, Summit Brewery, introduced itself to hundreds of highly influential people from across the globe.

At these events, readers met with others in the Utne community and became acquainted with our sponsors’ brands at the events, in the magazine, and through blogs, podcasts and viral video about the events.

In 2009, we’ll add more dates to our event schedule and are planning more creative gatherings, such as kickball tournaments for touring musicians, intellectual salons and other fun but meaningful ways to give our readers and marketing partners a chance to do something different.

Bryan Welch is the publisher and editorial director for Ogden Publications Inc., which publishes Utne Reader, Natural Home and Mother Earth News, among others.

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