How One Association Publisher Went Web-Only
A FOLIO: report from the SNAP Conference.
CHICAGO—Association publishers are facing six key elements that are changing their roles as publishers, according to Rebecca Rolfes, executive vice president of new business development at Imagination Publishing, who spoke here today at the Society of National Association Publications conference.
They include: nichification (“people want more and more of less and less”), speed (“associations are not noted for their speed or flexibility”), peer-to-peer (“historically, associations have controlled the message—now you are no longer in control”), data (“search engines are struggling with the amount of data out there and one-to-one databases are key”), and sophisticated governance (“more boards are based on competence rather than tenure”).
Imagination client IPC is an association serving the global electronics market, which in recent years grew globally but fell apart in the U.S. With 2,600 global members spread throughout the supply chain, IPC felt its print products, including a magazine called Review, weren’t connecting with the right audience—and with 7,000 subscribers, the association felt selling advertising wasn’t worth the trouble.
In 2007, Imagination suggested a radical step: cease publication of the print product and go Web-only. “The magazine wasn’t getting something and it was seen as just more work,” said Rolfes. “IPC wanted to be seen as a thought-leader in this space, not just a publisher of standards.”
The first step was an overhaul of the Web site by placing content at the top of the site. “Previously, there had been bad use of vertical space, there was far too much valuable information too far down the page,” said Rolfes. Current content is open to anyone but archives are available only to members.
The site now produces two 600- to 800-word features per week, as well as a podcast and a slideshow each month. A quarterly e-blast promotes rich media features in English and Chinese. While that doesn’t sound like much to most publishers ramping up their Web sites, it appeals to the international crowd. IPC.org produces its content in English, and with the help of a China-based office, offers full translation into Mandarin.
The site also offers two “best of list serve” each month. “Think of list serve as a baby social network,” said Rolfes. “Social media marketing is one of the best things you can do for SEO.”
IPC hasn’t abandoned print entirely, and now publishes an annual aimed at the leadership of it members. In July, the association launched a German-language version.
Since the relaunch, IPC.org has seen the number of visitors grow by 43 percent while the number of individual visits has doubled. Visit duration is up 15 percent to more than 11 minutes per session, and the site has generated more than 10,000 rich media downloads.