Association Magazines: Reaching Beyond Membership Borders

How can associations increase their publication audiences and extend beyond their members?

In a recent profile of New York magazine Editor-in-Chief Adam Moss, the regional publication was applauded for its apparently unique ability to drive ad revenue from its website.

The AdAge article noted that while most consumer magazines see about 5 to 15 percent of their ad sales from digital operations, New York’s digital outlets account for 40 percent of the publication’s total ad sales.

Another tactic employed by the Association for Retail Environments is to feature content geared towards members as well as their clients.

Also important to note is that 80 percent of the magazine’s online audience is from outside New York. That’s huge considering it is a regional publication covering most things, well, New York.

What is it about the website that attracts so many readers from outside its geographic niche?

No doubt part of the credit must be given to the magazine’s award-winning cache of staff writers (including Frank Rich), but the article also noted the magazine’s online-only content—the food and restaurant blog, GrubStreet, as well as The Cut, a fashion blog for women—both big drivers of online audiences and advertising dollars.

This rarity in the consumer publication world translates to association magazines as more and more organizations are looking to expand their publication audiences (not to state the obvious or anything over here.)

So how do you attract readers outside of your membership?

Blogging (as in the case of New York) is one idea. Blogs can become trusted sources of industry news and information, not to mention they can be great catalysts for online conversations where “outsiders” may come to join.

Another tactic employed by the Association for Retail Environments is to feature content geared towards members as well as their clients. When relaunching its magazine last fall, A.R.E. decided to focus not simply on its members, but also its members’ clients.

“Prior to then, the print edition of the magazine went to members and member prospects only, with an editorial focus on their information needs,” Karen Schaffner, a managing director at Retail Environments, told Folio. “Today, the magazine is delivered to retailers—our members’ clients—and the content is now designed to promote better/stronger relationships between our members and retailers.”

And it worked. Retail Environments has tripled its circulation since the relaunch.

In an age when so many associations are trying to broaden their reach and increase their memberships, sometimes through their magazines, what are some other ways organizations can expand their publication readerships?


(photo via photosteve101/Flickr)

Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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