Publishers Making Profits: Mother Jones


Who: Madeleine Buckingham, the CEO of Mother Jones, harnessed an often overlooked market of young, urban progressives, green activists, and alternative news junkies via social media and a laser-targeted editorial ethos.


What: Mother Jones’ editorial terrain is slightly left of The Huffington Post, and without the “Dog Eats Man’s Toes While Sleeping” and other broader fare HuffPo has put under its umbrella. Named after trade union activist Mary Harris Jones, Mother Jones has a strong brand among progressives and liberal newsies. Mother Jones’ unabashed liberal outlook supports its branding efforts and maximizes its advertisers’ ROI by creating an audience that is almost exclusively liberal, green-aware, and politically active.



















How: Mother Jones’ editorial outlook warmed the magazine’s core audience by consistently speaking to their top issues and interests in terms of content and areas covered. That content-forward strategy translated into social media. The magazine’s Twitter followers increased 28 percent in February to top 43,000, as did the magazine’s Facebook fan base, which grew by 40 percent to more than 40,000. Mother Jones is even experimenting with newer platforms, launching the new MoJo Tumblr site.


Fully 29 percent of‘s traffic came from social media sites, tripling the amount driven to the anchor site from social in 2010. Visitors to rose by 420 percent to 3 million, as compared to February 2010. Monthly page views increased by 275 percent to more than 6.6 million compared to a year ago. Digital advertising revenue for the months of January and February 2011 showed a 200 percent increase.


Why: “Across the organization we are firing on all pistons, remaining focused, and it’s definitely paying off,” CEO Madeleine Buckingham said. “We are reaching new online audiences, our profile in the news journalism world has been raised considerably, we are currently surpassing all digital revenue goals, and we’re landing some major scoops.”


Beyond the textbook “focus on your core audience” and “maximize social networks” maxims, Mother Jones’ approach put audience metrics in the forefront of strategy, merging social presence with content that doesn’t attempt to mimic the coverage of big-budget content brands.


Mother Jones took the route of posting nearly real-time commentary on breaking news, creating conversations around issues, and carrying those conversations from social sites back to the anchor site. This approach drove clicks and advertisers to Mother Jones, helping the site gain online status as a significant player in a growing niche market.

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