Lunch & Learn Recap: Industry Research Update Spotlights Staffing Concerns

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By Kathleen Hagan

Kathleen HaganAt AM&P’s Industry Research Update Lunch & Learn on January 25 in Chicago, attendees received a first look at AM&P’s 2017 Publishing Benchmark Study. Lou Ann Sabatier, principal at Sabatier Consulting, presented the study’s key findings, which included data on publication types, circulation, frequency, staff size and compensation, outsourcing trends, distribution costs, revenue, and more.

The goal of the study was to collect actionable data that will help AM&P members make informed decisions and take calculated risks. Findings from the study reiterate the fact that print is not going anywhere — no respondents converted a flagship print publication to only digital within the past year, and 91 percent of associations publish some form of print and digital.

One of the biggest challenges association publishing teams face is lack of staff, say 63 percent of associations surveyed, so a highlight of the Lunch & Learn presentation was discussing publishing responsibilities and outsourcing. Audience members took the opportunity to get involved and ask questions about staffing, and they were interested in the data surrounding the average size of publication departments — 53 percent have fewer than five employees, 28 percent have five to 10 employees, and 20 percent have 11 or more employees.

To tackle the challenge of lack of staff, Sabatier shared that 15 percent of the survey respondents plan to add more internal staff in the coming year, and 21 percent said they plan to outsource more functions. Currently, the most outsourced functions are advertising sales (40 percent), publication design (36 percent), and digital conversion (35 percent).

Other challenges the study highlighted are lack of revenue (36 percent of associations surveyed) and insufficient budget (42 percent of associations surveyed). Forty-seven percent of respondents said they plan to leverage more technology to overcome these challenges, compared to just 9 percent who said they plan to eliminate a program to solve the problem.

When it comes to revenue sources for association publications, print advertising tops the list at 49 percent, followed by member dues at 25 percent. For those associations that said their revenue is trending up, the top reasons were because of digital media advertising and print advertising. On the other hand, those who saw a decrease in revenue also cited print advertising as the top culprit.

All in all, the 2017 Publishing Benchmark Study lets association publishing teams know they are not alone. There are others out there facing the same challenges and problems as you, and knowing where you stand compared to others in the industry can help you gain some perspective. Seeing what your peers are doing can also provide support and rationale for making tough decisions, including where you should focus your time, energy, and money.

Kathleen Hagan is associate director of content at GLC, a marketing communications agency. Association Media & Publishing thanks Kathleen for her stellar job of covering this Lunch & Learn for our members who were unable to attend.