Do you want to add tangible value for your members? If you don’t already, give them a printed magazine that caters specifically to them and their interests. Through membership surveys, we’ve found that an association’s magazine is typically considered the number one benefit. This is particularly true for enthusiast organizations; members of this type just can’t get enough of what they love! And for business or trade-oriented associations, a printed magazine provides important updates and resources that may have been missed in the slew of emails reaching member inboxes.

Why should you make the investment to launch a printed publication? Five big reasons:

  1. A magazine offers an additional source of revenue. You can sell advertising, which can cover the cost of the magazine production as well as potentially turn a profit.
  2. Print isn’t as easily ignored as email. It’s too easy to delete an email, because it’s a split-second decision on whether the content interests you at that moment. A printed magazine, and printed pieces in general, need to at least pass through someone’s hands. And chances are someone will take the time to flip through it, maybe even read it cover to cover.
  3. According to an article by Forbes, “neuroscience studies show paper-based content and ads offer advantages in connecting with our brains.” Why? Physical material is more “real” to the brain, makes more of an impact, and is easier to remember. This experience makes members feel like they are really getting something for their membership, which they will reference when it comes time to renew.
  4. Members tend to feel more connected to the association with a printed magazine. They receive news and updates that they may have missed otherwise. In this way, they become more invested.
  5. You can use magazine issues as promotional pieces. This gives prospective members a real taste of your association, what’s important to you and the current membership. It also helps them to relate to your association’s mission. You can use the magazine as part of your renewal efforts, too, if you know the magazine is well-loved by members. This can increase the response rate significantly.

So what goes into the process of launching a magazine? Here’s what we’ve learned from years of experience:

  1. Investigate your competitors. Yes, even membership magazines should see what other competing associations are offering as far as a magazine and its content.
  2. Plan for two years’ worth of issues. That’s right. Two years. If you want this magazine to last, you need to look ahead and have a pretty good idea of what you’re going to need. Of course, always be open for changes to this plan as time goes on.
  3. Decide on a title. You should check to make sure it’s not already in use by any other magazine in the nation. Once you’ve chosen a title, get the copyright in the name of your association. You need to own it!
  4. Decide on a page count. Since print signatures come in multiples of 8, you should choose a page count that is easily divisible by eight. Start conservatively, based on what you expect to be able to provide – you can always add pages in later editions.
  5. Decide on the magazine’s frequency: Quarterly? Bi-Monthly? Monthly? You can always add more issues later on, so don’t pigeon hole yourself into promising too many issues if you can’t deliver.
  6. This delivery is subject to having enough content and advertising to fill the pages. You’ll need to find an editor-in-chief who is knowledgeable in planning, writing, and working with authors (freelance or from within the industry). This person should be an expert in your field, industry, or pastime.
  7. For a membership organization, you already have a set readership. You’ll need to decide also, however, if you want to make issues available for individual sale for non-members.
  8. Find a vendor who can do as much in house as possible, from designing to printing to circulation management to mailing the issues. This not only saves time, it saves on expenses because there are fewer companies involved in the process.
  9. Your magazine’s voice will evolve. Have you ever seen the pilot episode of popular sitcoms? The actors often don’t have their stride yet. It’s only after several episodes or seasons that the show – and the actors – develops its own unique identity. This will become more concrete and “normal” as time goes on. The first few issues are the toughest because they set the foundation.
  10. But still don’t forget about a digital option. We live in a world where people expect to be able to read what they want, when they want it, in the way they want it. Members will definitely appreciate a printed edition, but they may also like having access to a digital version. Make sure you have both, and that both are done to very high standards.

Article written by:

Jillian LaCross

New Media Director, Managing Editor