CHICAGO — Association publishers are taking strides online but—based on the results of a study by Angerosa Research Foundation (ARF), presented at the SNAP conference on Monday—clearly some have accomplished more than others. The study surveyed association publishers with a median budget of $8 million.
Twelve percent had a budget under $1 million, sixteen percent had a budget more than $25 million, and 7 percent had a budget of more than $50 million. Eighty-seven percent of association magazines post some of their content online, but only 66 percent post all their content online. In terms of revenue, only one third sell advertising online, but that portion is larger—at 44 percent—for publishers with more than 200 full-time employees. The median annual Web advertising revenue for respondents was $18,000, with $2 million on the high end of the spectrum.
For e-newsletters specifically, the median annual revenue was $15,000, with $1.2 million on the high end. Association mags remain split on how users should access their content online—47 percent offer open access while 44 percent limit access with passwords. According to Debra Stratton, head of ARF and president of Stratton Research, this is an ongoing debate for association publishers: extend the reach of their content and brand to the masses or protect the importance and benefits of membership. She expects the debate to continue with no clear shift to one side.
A shift she does see is with e-newsletters. While 67 percent publish more than one e-newsletter, with a median of six, she says there is a trend towards consolidation, especially on the part of larger publishers. “Members are experiencing information overload,” she said. “Associations have been seeing some pushback.” She says more large publishers are depending on a primary newsletter as a gateway to their site.
As an example, she noted AIArchitect. After moving to an integrated approach that emphasized general industry news and headlines, followed by association news and career information, they saw a 50 percent open rate on some issues, with an average of 33 percent.
In addition to e-newsletters and magazine content, 64 percent of respondents offer other electronic content. The breakdown from most used to least is: Webinars (36 percent), video (26), podcasts (21), blogs (19), chats (14), wikis (1), and other (8).