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The Dollars and Sense of Magazine Publishing - 2/1/2011 -

If your magazine is not making a positive contribution to the association’s bottom line, run down this check list of ideas.

By Al Rickard, CAE

Nearly all association magazines have a revenue target to reach – one that makes sense based on the value the association places on the publication.

In most cases, magazines are expected to make a positive contribution to the bottom line of the association. In some cases, associations are willing to subsidize a magazine to some degree because of the member benefit and promotional value it provides for other programs.

Either way, maximizing revenue and saving money is always a good idea. Here’s a short list of questions publishers should ask as they look for ways to reach their revenue targets:

  • Have we done readership research to determine the value of the magazine content? What changes might we make to streamline the publication?
  • Is the magazine page count higher than it should be based on the number of ads? (Advertising in most financially successful magazines comprises 40-60 percent of the pages.)
  • Does our advertising revenue support our frequency? If not, can we switch from monthly to bimonthly or quarterly?
  • Have we considered offering members the option to subscribe only to an online version, saving on printing and postage and positioning ourselves as offering environmentally friendly solutions?
  • Have we explored ways to save money based on revised workflow, different staffing options, design approaches, and different paper/postage/printing options?
  • If the magazine was not available to promote association products and services, what would be the likely effect on these programs, and how might we promote them in other ways? What would that cost?
  • Have we done all that we can to maximize advertising revenue? Are the ad rates appropriate for the market and the competition?

Sometimes associations look to outside publishers to produce their magazines, which can also save money and produce a revenue stream based on advertising royalties. Maintaining a level of control over an outsourced magazine can be an issue, but outside publishing contracts can be structured in a variety of ways. It can still be the association’s "official” magazine and generate net revenue at the same time (assuming that the advertising market is strong enough), giving an association the best of both worlds.

Al Rickard is president of Association Vision, a Washington, DC-area communications company. Follow him on Twitter.


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