Association Publishers Report Less Growth But Fewer Losses This Year

A new association publishing survey reveals revenue predictions for 2014, as well as industry trends over the last five years, including the fact that savvy budget maintenance has contributed to somewhat steady profit margins.

The association publishing industry, much like the rest of the publishing industry, is still grappling with the effects of the Great Recession and digital innovation.

With revenue from print advertising continuing to decline and digital revenue failing to fill the void,  association publishers are predicting less growth but fewer losses this year, according to Folio’s “2014 Association Publishing Survey.”

While nearly 50 percent of the more than 1,000 surveyed association publishers predicted no revenue change this year, about one-fifth of the respondents predicted increased revenues, and most of those predicted less than a 5 percent increase. Roughly 13 percent predicted a decline in revenue, which is comparatively low to the last five years.

“Overall, mean revenue expectations are up slightly,” Folio’s Michael Rondon wrote in a summary of the report. “As a whole, respondents anticipate industry revenue to increase 0.5 percent. That may not seem like much, but it’s the highest expected bump since 2012 (a big rebound year following the recession), and the third year in a row associations have expressed confidence in their prospects for the coming 12 months.”

Where did revenue come from in 2014? Despite its steady decline over the last several years, print advertising still makes up a majority of the revenue pie, with more than 50 percent, followed by paid subscriptions (21.9 percent) and digital revenue (9.3 percent). Events, miscellaneous sources, and data and information made up the rest.

“Add in revenue from hard-copy subscriptions and, for some, single-copy sales, and print magazines make up three-quarters (or more) of publishing revenue,” Rondon wrote. “Print still drives the business. It’s not going away soon and can’t be jettisoned lightly.”

In spite of the steady decline in per-member revenue over the last several years, profit margins have largely remained the same, largely due to reduced spending and cost cutting.

The top-three challenges reported by association publishers included a lack of staff, competition with for-profit publishers, and a lack of editorial independence. An additional challenge that survey respondents alluded to anecdotally was a misunderstanding of what associations are and the work they do.

“General views of many that association publications are not valuable,” wrote one survey respondent, “especially advertising agencies who do not understand associations well.”


Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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