5 Revenue Boosters for Your Association Magazine

A magazine is one of your association’s most powerful member engagement tools. Not only does it keep your members informed and up to date on the latest industry and association news, but it is also a powerful vehicle for telling their stories and fostering a sense of community among your membership.

While its primary purpose remains engagement, there are opportunities for revenue within the pages of your magazine that you may not yet have explored. This blog post presents five such revenue boosters and offers concrete tips to put them into practice. 

With the right strategies, you can transform your magazine from a straightforward member benefit to a robust revenue generator without compromising its role as a key engagement tool. 

Are you ready to discover how your magazine can be a more active participant in your association’s revenue framework? Keep reading.

Revenue Booster #1: Sponsorships

Sponsorships work by partnering with businesses or organizations that share a common interest with your association. A carefully selected sponsorship can enhance your association’s message, add value for your members and provide a significant revenue boost. Sponsorships can take any number of forms, but a few common ones include:  

  • Advertisements. Advertisements are a traditional yet highly effective way to enhance your magazine ad revenue. Sponsors will often be given premium ad space in the magazine, such as the back cover or center spread. Your sponsorship agreement may include ads in multiple issues throughout the year. 
  • Sponsored content. The sponsor underwrites an article, series or package within the magazine relevant to its business or industry. The content is usually tagged as sponsored content or a “special section” but should uphold the editorial standards of your publication. 
  • Branding. In some cases, a sponsor’s logo or name may appear in the magazine alongside content pieces or as the sponsor of an event. 

Regardless of the form, the goal of sponsorships is to create a win-win-win situation. You receive a new revenue source, the sponsor gets access to your audience, and your members receive valuable information about a product or service that may benefit them. 

Tips to attract and sign sponsors: 

  • Identify potential sponsors. Create a list of organizations that share your values and have products and services your members would find useful. 
  • Create a value proposition. Before approaching a potential sponsor, think about what’s in it for them. Maybe it’s increased visibility or access to your engaged audience. Or maybe it’s the chance to demonstrate industry support. 
  • Develop a sponsorship package. Clearly outline what the sponsor company will receive in exchange for its financial investment, what they will provide to you (who is creating the ads and special section content), and the length and terms of the agreement. 
  • Look for partners. Look at your sponsor as your partner. Ideally, this will be an ongoing relationship that benefits both parties. 

Revenue Booster #2: Inserts

Inserts are standalone promotional pieces tucked inside the pages of your magazine. They offer your advertisers a chance to stand out from the rest of the ads in the magazine and engage with your members in a creative way. Magazine inserts can be as simple as a post-card-sized ad stuck in the centerfold. They can also be wildly creative, like the DIY paper kiosk kit NBC tucked inside Rolling Stone magazine to promote the show, Chuck. You’re only limited by imagination (well, and budget, of course). 

Tips for effective magazine inserts: 

  • Select the right partners. Just like with sponsors, the success of an insert depends on how well it resonates with your members. Choose partners whose vision and values align with your members’ interests. 
  • Set the standard. You’ve likely gone to great lengths to ensure the look and feel of your publication matches your association brand and personality. Sticking in an insert that departs from that can have a negative impact on your brand. For example, if the style of your magazine is quiet luxury, your members may be put off by a loud, garish insert printed on cheap paper. 
  • Don’t overdo it. It’s annoying when you crack open a publication, and half a dozen scraps of paper float to the floor. Not only will too many inserts irk your readers and devalue your brand, they’re more likely to be thrown out without a glance. That means your advertisers aren’t getting the eyeballs they paid for. 

Revenue Booster #3: Belly Bands and Ride-Alongs

Belly bands and ride-alongs share similar DNA with inserts. But instead of being tucked into the pages of your publication, they live on the outside. 

  • Belly bands (or ad bands) are belts that wrap around your magazine, showcasing the advertiser’s message before the reader opens it up. 
  • Ride-alongs are either attached to the outside of your publication or enclosed in a polyvinyl bag. They can take the form of a postcard, brochure or booklet, or even a product sample. The United States Postal Service has a program that allows publishers to include ride-alongs with their magazines at a discounted rate. 

Both belly bands and ride-alongs offer advertisers prime exposure as the first thing your members will see when they pick up your magazine. 

Tips to make the most of these advertising efforts: 

  • Make it attractive and easy to remove. This is the first thing your readers will see. Make sure it’s visually appealing and that it is easy to take off. The goal is to catch the reader’s attention, not get in the way. 
  • Be creative. Experiment with the shape and size of belly bands. Some have even used die-cut elements to create a peek-a-boo effect that interacts with the magazine cover beneath.  
  • Customize. Consider creating multiple belly bands or ride-alongs if your association serves multiple regions or populations. It’s easier and less expensive than customizing a whole issue of the magazine.  
  • Self-promote. If you don’t have an outside advertiser, use a belly band to promote an association event or point readers to important content within your own publication. Use ride-alongs as a value-add for members, offering something extra and unexpected. 

Revenue Booster #4: Digital Ads and Extras

Many associations already use digital channels like blogs or social media to connect with members and promote events. But too few have a comprehensive strategy on how to monetize a digital magazine or earn revenue from online ads and extras.

That could be a mistake. According to the Center for Association Leadership, “Digitization continues to reshape advertising and marketing as advertisers embrace content innovations and more precise consumer targeting. … Innovations in modes and models for content delivery are opening new routes for advertisers and blurring the lines between marketing and content.”

Digital advertising ideas to get you started: 

  • Offer digital ad packages. Create cross-over ad or sponsorship packages that include digital ads on your website, blog, email newsletter or social media platforms. 
  • Use your data. Knowing when and how your members interact with your website — and what content there resonates the most — is valuable for potential advertisers. Use that data to demonstrate the value of an online ad partnership. 
  • Use programmatic advertising and retargeting. These powerful digital practices enable your ads to follow people who have interacted with your site as they go about unrelated online activities. 
  • Self-promote. Use digital ad campaigns to attract new members, engage existing members, or promote events and initiatives.  

Revenue Booster #5: Charge a Subscription Fee for Non-Members

Even though your magazine is specifically designed with members in mind, it likely has value for those who haven’t yet joined your ranks. A high-quality, expertly written, beautifully designed association publication can certainly hold its own next to many newsstand glossies. 

Charging a subscription fee for non-members creates added revenue and positions your publication as a desirable resource beyond your association boundaries. Bonus: Your subscribers may love it so much that they become members! 

Building Magazine Revenue Streams That Last

According to a recent M Group poll, 44% of association executives say revenue is a top challenge. With many associations still recovering from pandemic-related losses and dwindling member numbers, non-dues revenue is more important than ever. 

But building a magazine that generates revenue is about more than implementing every advertising opportunity you can think of. It’s about creating a balanced ecosystem wherein your members, association and advertisers benefit. After all, the core purpose is to create something meaningful, beautiful and valuable to serve and engage your members.  

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