<< Return

Are You Ready to Go Digital? - 2/25/2014 -

Emily Schuster
Knowing how much time you have to put into it — and how much revenue you need out of it — are two areas to consider before launching a digital magazine.

By Emily Schuster

On January 22, more than 30 association media professionals braved freezing temperatures and lingering snow and ice to gather in Alexandria, Va., for Association Media & Publishing’s first Lunch & Learn program of 2014: Are You Ready to Go Digital?

The Lunch & Learn was led by Randolph Nanna, publisher of Physics Today, the flagship publication of the American Institute of Physics (AIP), and Jennifer Smith, creative director of Network Media Partners. GTxcel sponsored the program.

Nanna outlined benefits of creating a digital publication, which include:
  • The ability to reach readers anywhere, on their terms
  • Relative ease of production
  • Environmental benefits
  • Opportunities to save money on printing and shipping
  • New revenue options
"For us, it was barely a hiccup,” said Nanna of the 2012 launch of Physics Today’s digital edition, which is an exact replica of the print edition. AIP sends a PDF of its print publication to its digital vendor, Qmags, which returns the digital edition a few days later. Nanna estimates that the entire process takes about a half-day’s staff time for his association.

Smith described a different approach to a digital magazine, in which designers create pages intended for a particular medium, such as a tablet or desktop computer. "It’s additional work, but not a huge amount,” she said. "It’s a little more robust, and the experience is a little bit better.”

Smith recommended developing a menu of interactive elements as a framework to build familiarity and trust from readers, while also leaving room for creativity. Interactive elements might include videos, slideshows, polls, quizzes, interactive maps, animated infographics, audio from interviews, or links to additional online content. She advised attendees to plan content to work in print and digital formats by, for example, creating an icon set that syncs back to the print edition. Smith encouraged attendees to use research on their readers’ preferences to drive editorial decisions, but to experiment and course correct as needed.

While some advertisers may be hesitant to make the jump to digital, there are many advertising opportunities that are particularly well suited for digital formats. Some places an advertiser might get exposure in a digital edition include a belly band, a small advertiser line on the cover, or an ad on the side of every page. In addition, an association could get a sponsor for its digital magazine or for the eblast it sends to let subscribers know the digital edition is available.

Sponsored content and native advertising are other options, if an association decides it is willing to use them. In any ad, interactivity and subtle animation can be used to grab readers’ attention. Another advantage of digital advertising is that it can provide metrics to show who clicked through to an advertiser’s website.

Both Nanna and Smith warned against moving completely away from print into digital formats. Associations that have gone totally digital have not been successful, they said, and some have ended up cutting their digital magazine altogether because no one was reading it or advertising in it. Nanna pointed out recent association survey data that indicated that although 67 percent of associations publish a digital edition of some publication, print still accounts for 57 percent of all association revenue.

Editor's note: Access materials from the Lunch & Learn: Item 1 (PPT), Item 2 (PDF).

Emily Schuster is editor of Dimensions, the bimonthly magazine of the Association of Science-Technology Centers. Dimensions is read by science center and museum professionals in 46 countries worldwide. Association Media & Publishing thanks her for covering this event for our members who were unable to attend.

Visit our website to learn about more upcoming education opportunities with Association Media & Publishing.


© Copyright 2017, Association Media and Publishing. All rights reserved.