Conducting an internal audit of your association's publications as well as gathering feedback from advertisers is a cost-efficient way to determine if your association needs to ramp up its involvement and offerings in electronic and social media.
By Patricia L. Fitzgerald
LONG-TERM SURVIVAL REQUIRES CONTINUAL IMPROVEMENT, and the best way to determine what needs improving—at least, in the minds of your readers—is to conduct an audit. While a third-party independent audit is best, many associations cannot afford that these days. A good alternative is to conduct an audit of your publication(s) internally.
Because most association magazines, tabloids, and journals are also delivering and facilitating content via e-mail and social media, any publication audit also must study these areas. Electronic and Web 2.0 tie-ins to publications are now essential to creating community and building the publication's market identity. For nondaily print publications competing for readers, delivering content electronically (particularly breaking news) can help ensure monthly or bimonthly publications stay competitive as news sources.
In fact, 87 percent of associations offer magazine or journal content online, according to the Angerosa Research Foundation study E-Publishing Trends & Metrics, and nearly half offer some kind of original online content. Social media is gaining steam as well, with more than half of associations now involved in at least one form of social media (57 percent), according to the latest Angerosa study, Web 2.0: How Associations are Tapping Social Media.
Use these steps to ensure social media and electronic offerings are included in your publication audit:
1. In reader feedback research, ask about usage/readership of the online/digital version of your publication. Determine your readers' preferred media formats for certain types of information (breaking news, features, association news, etc.), readership of e-newsletters, and use of your website, as well as use of/interest in Twitter, Facebook updates, and other information created/delivered via social media that is relevant to their business. Maybe there's an opportunity for your association to develop its own social media site.
2.I n advertiser feedback research, measure your vendors' and service providers' interest in advertising in your organization's electronic media. According to E-Publishing Trends & Metrics, 39 percent of associations sell advertising/sponsorships in their e-newsletters. Additionally, 21 percent of associations are seeing revenue from Web 2.0 tools, primarily from sponsorships. Clearly, the potential is there.
3. Assess competitors' electronic and Web 2.0 offerings. Examine how they compare to yours. Consider electronic and Web 2.0 opportunities available with other associations as well as those from for-profit publishers.
4. Develop short- and long-term financial goals to ensure electronic media are self-sustaining (if that is the goal). Ensure that expenses and revenues are carefully tracked and tied to specific media.
5. Assess electronic media processes, procedures, and staffing to ensure efficiency. Don't undertake what you cannot handle with the resources available.
6. Develop short- and long-term goals for development and expansion of electronic media. Ensure plans are scalable, so you can test and then add new features as resources allow.
Patricia Fitzgerald is director of editorial services for the School Nutrition Association, National Harbor, Md., and editor of its flagship publication, School Nutrition magazine. Don't miss Fitzgerald's upcoming feature on how to perform internal audits on your association's publications in the November/December 2009 issue of Association Publishing.