For Associations Balancing Print vs. Digital, Understanding Your Membership is Key
Digital publishing may be the cheaper alternative, but only if it doesn't alienate your audience.
This is the sixth in a series of Q&A's with panelists appearing at the Folio: Association Media Summit on May 3rd in Washington, D.C.
Association publications—especially within non-profit organizations—are often under immense pressure to be as financially efficient as possible, something that might make the cheaper digital publishing a more attractive pursuit. But what if an association's membership has an established relationship with a print magazine that cannot be ignored? How can associations effectively engage with their members to learn which types of publications, topics, and stories they value in order to make informed strategic decisions?
LD+A is the monthly magazine for the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES), a 110-year-old non-profit whose stated mission is to "improve the lighted environment by bringing together those with lighting knowledge and by translating that knowledge into actions that benefit the public."
Here, LD+A editor and publisher, Paul Tarricone, gives a preview of some of the insights he will offer as a speaker on the panel, "Print vs. Digital: A Strategic Choice," at the Folio: Association Media Summit in Washington, D.C.
Folio: What are some effective ways in which an association publication can draw feedback from its membership?
Paul Tarricone: Survey Monkey is a beautiful thing. Its cost-effectiveness allows for much more frequent reader research. We conduct “Editorial Guidance” surveys every two or three years, which allow us to gauge reader interest/satisfaction with topics, specific columnists, layout/design, you name it. We’ve also integrated editorial questions into our annual Ad-Q advertiser survey to get even more feedback.
Folio: What was one of your most engaging articles/stories in recent issues, and why?
Tarricone: The stories that typically drive letters and comments for us involve new industry standards. A new code or standard may seem dry to the layman, but they have a huge impact on practitioners and manufacturers.
Folio: What are some of the benefits specific to the print edition of LD+A? And digital?
Tarricone: Print has a certain gravitas (there’s no such thing a “bound volume” of a digital edition). It’s a record that lasts for decades—very important to a 110-year-old Society such as ours. In addition, our market is quite visual (architecture/design) so readers like to see projects in all their glory. From a business perspective, the advantage to print is that our advertisers still consider this the hub of their marketing campaigns. Print, for us, drives a lot of revenue. The advantage of the digital issue is mobility, and now the experience with print is somewhat replicated due to the sophisticated page turner systems.
Folio: Do you include the same content in both your print and digital editions?
Tarricone: We do a replica digital edition (page turner/flip technology) that is available only to members. In addition, we publish several e-newsletters that combine selected magazine content and new content, and distribute to a wider audience than just members.