The Different Shades of Magazine Publishing

Is now a good time to launch a new association publication? For two organizations, the answer was yes, but they took different approaches focused on creating value for members.

Print or digital? It’s the question that both for-profit and nonprofit publishers have been trying to settle for at least a decade. Two associations launching new publications last month answered it differently, but both were driven by member needs.

Looking at what’s happened to the broader industry of printed publications and journalism, it makes sense

The Society of Interventional Radiology (SIR) and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) introduced new magazines aimed at providing broader value and content to their members and industries. While both are quarterly publications, the vehicles they use to deliver content vary.

Best in American Living, NAHB’s magazine, is online only and will be supplemented by a regularly updated website and Facebook page.

“Looking at what’s happened to the broader industry of printed publications and journalism, it makes sense,” said Debra Bassert, editor-in-chief at NAHB. “With the advent of iPads and smartphones, it seems we’re a lot further down the road to people accepting that format, reading on a computer screen or on their phone. We found that across all age groups, people are reading our stuff online now.”

SIR has tech-savvy members and will offer a digital replica of its new magazine, IR Quarterly, but the association is still seeing demand for a print product.

“We know that in the midst of their very digital world, our members still value having those products available to them,” said Sue Holzer, SIR’s executive director. “We wanted to ensure that print connection with us was still there. That pick-it-up-and-hold-it or read-it-when-you-have-some-down-time feeling is still important to them.”

In both cases, decisions were made with the goal of increasing perceived member value.

“If you’ve paid any attention over the past five years to how the building industry has fared during the recession, you know we, like many other associations, have lost members,” said NAHB’s Bassert. “There’s really a little something for everyone with the new magazine—it’s very visual. It looks quite different from most trade publications.”

“What we believe that our members need is more relevant content in a more user-friendly and more readable format that would help them even more,” said Holzer. “We knew we had a valuable product in what we were providing in our IR News publication, but we wanted a real big jolt of fresh energy that would hit across all of our stakeholders.”

Launching a new publication or relaunching an existing title can be reinvigorating for staff and an organization.

“When my staff brought the [IR Quarterly] proposal to me, it was a bit of a surprise because we had gone through a little bit of a mini-makeover previously,” said Holzer. “It’s OK to be surprised, though. This alone has really been a good catalyst for helping to remind us that there are a lot of things that we hope to be changing in the organization. It’s a big shift for us, but we let it happen in a very organic kind of way, and we know that it’ll continue to evolve.”

Rob Stott

By Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!