Lunch & Learn Recap: Defending Your Publication Against Being Sunsetted

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By Safia Kazi


Complex revenue challenges, the increasing price of paper and postage, and the lack of a value definition for publications could lead association publishing teams to have to confront the possibility of sunsetting their magazines and journals. The best way to prevent publications being shuttered is to prevent the conversation from even happening.


At the August 15 AM&P Lunch & Learn in Chicago, Joe Stella, vice president of business development at GLC; Steve Schwanz, executive vice president at Fox Associates; Tony Priore, chief marketing officer at Residential Real Estate Council; and Molly McDonough, editor and publisher of the ABA Journal, shared ways to keep a publication from being sunsetted.


Involve Your Partners

Involving your partners, e.g., printers, can help address the issues of the rising costs of producing print publications. For example, a printer may be able to recommend a lower paper weight, which reduces the cost of paper and the cost of postage — and it could be a weight reduction that your readers will not notice.


Involving partners becomes especially important when it comes to tackling revenue hurdles. Advertising revenue is down, but your advertising and sponsorship partners can provide you with feedback on what advertisers need. The days of providing a media kit and only offering limited advertising opportunities are coming to an end. It is becoming increasingly more important to go beyond the usual methods of advertisement. Listen to your advertisers’ goals and challenges, and try to provide them with solutions. Years ago, magazines were one of the only places to advertise; this is changing, and it is crucial that publishers adapt to the various methods of advertising.


Define the Value of Your Publications

It may be difficult to define the value of magazines and journals, but senior leadership needs to know the value if they are to continue being published. It is crucial to have a content strategy and be able to identify how publications drive the goals and objectives of the content strategy and, more broadly, the goals of the association.


It is crucial to show that publications offer member value. Many associations conduct readership surveys. While the quantitative information is often used to compile reports, take some time to read the comments. They can often help demonstrate the value of publications. When challenged with the cost of producing a publication, ask, “If not this publication, then what?” What could be introduced that would provide as much or greater value? The answer is likely, “Nothing.”


Make It Irreplaceable

Magazines and journals should be a springboard for other developments across the association, such as conferences, webinars, and continuing education. If other teams and revenue-generating resources rely on a publication, that publication cannot be sunsetted. They provide so much value that eliminating them would affect more than just the publishing team; it would have a negative association-wide effect.


Clearly Define Digital

The speakers emphasized that digital is not a Holy Grail. Senior leadership may be under the impression that discontinuing print publication will cut back on expenses but not affect revenue; this is simply not true. Digital publishing is not cheap, and digital content tends to get stale faster. Digital publishing also leads to advertiser concerns, as digital ads can show metrics and open rates, so advertisers may find that they are not getting the leads they expected.


Another challenge with digital ads, as one Lunch & Learn participant pointed out, is that ad blockers exist for browsers, but there is no ad blocker for print.


Sustain Your Publication

It is necessary to monitor changes to your membership demographics and the scope of the profession. Keep content relevant, useful, and credible. Content audits are necessary, as are readership surveys. Know what your readers want and provide it to them in a credible and authentic way.


Look beyond your association and be proactive with trends in publishing and content. Keeping the design current and compelling is key. Evaluate the look and feel every two or three years and look at surveys for feedback on what your readers want.


Involve stakeholders, senior executive leaders, and industry partners in future planning. It is much easier to keep executive support if you have it from the beginning than trying to obtain it down the line.

Finally, provide a call to action for readers. What should they do with the information once they have read it? Should they go online for a related article? Try to incorporate a call to action in all content. Helping readers find new related resources positions publications as a value-add for your entire association, not just the publishing team.


Safia Kazi is the editorial coordinator for ISACA. Association Media & Publishing thanks Safia for her stellar job of covering this Lunch & Learn for our members who were unable to attend.