5 Ways to Reduce Costs for Your Association Magazine

Did you know your association magazine is one of your most valuable assets? It’s true. Even (or especially) in the age of online everything, members turn to high-quality print publications as trusted and credible sources of information. 

Even so, when faced with tight budgets and staffing shortages, it can be tempting to ditch your mag as a cost-saving measure.

In this post, we’ll share five practical ways to reduce costs and increase the value of your association magazine so you can hang onto this valuable asset and boost the bottom line.

1. Evaluate Your Magazine’s Physical Properties

The physical properties of your magazine can make a bigger difference in cost than you may think. The format, size and paper quality are all important factors to consider. 

Lane Press says the most efficient standard trim size is 8.375” x 10.875”. “Printers are usually able to manufacture magazines that are smaller or larger than standard, but an unusual trim size may generate more paper waste or incur higher mail costs.” 

Also, keep page counts in mind. Most printers like to run pages in multiples of 16. It’s more efficient than multiples of four or eight. These may seem like minor changes, but the savings can add up. 

Other physical attributes that can contribute to a higher print bill include: 

  • Paper. According to Lane Press, paper is the single largest raw material in periodical publishing. To save money on paper, it is important to understand the different types of paper, work closely with your printer to compare samples and pricing and not be committed to a specific brand. 
  • Leading, kerning and layout. Small design adjustments can save space and reduce the number of pages in your publication. It’s important to put these changes in the hands of a qualified designer, though, or you could end up with a visually unappealing product. 

2. Save on Shipping

Shipping is one of the biggest expenses for associations that send magazines to their members. However, there are several practical ways to save money on shipping costs, including:

  • Negotiate bulk rates. If you ship a large number of magazines to your members, you may be able to take advantage of bulk rates and secure a lower rate for your association by shipping in larger quantities.
  • Optimize packaging. Minimizing the size and weight of your shipping boxes is an easy way to reduce shipping costs. Use lightweight packaging materials, and consider using flat-rate boxes for smaller shipments.
  • Consolidate shipments. If you have multiple magazines to send to the same member, consider consolidating them into one shipment. This can help you save on shipping costs as well as reduce the environmental impact of your shipping operations.
  • Explore nonprofit shipping rates. If your association is a nonprofit, you may be able to take advantage of this USPS cost-saving option. 

3. Check Your Production Costs

How much are you paying each month for freelancers to write and design your publication? Or, if you’re all in-house, how much time is your staff dedicating to producing the magazine — including managing printing and shipping — versus other duties? 

Start by conducting a cost/benefit analysis of your production processes to help identify areas where you are spending too much time or money. There are a few ways to streamline your processes, including: 

  • Having fewer people involved in content creation. If you’re hiring six freelancers each month, those costs can add up.
  • Investing in technology. Tech platforms can help automate things like editorial calendars, revisions and proofreading. 
  • Outsourcing the production processes. Do so to cut back on in-house time managing things like printing, mailing and distribution. 
  • Working with a full-service publishing partner. Not only can a publisher streamline the full production process, it can help identify areas where you may be overspending on and over-complicating your production processes. 

4. Go Digital

We are fully bought in on print magazines as a valuable member asset. But that doesn’t mean there is no place for digital. If you’re looking to cut costs, offering a digital supplement can help reduce the overall size and cost of your magazine while providing members with the value they’ve come to expect. 

One advantage of digital is the ability to incorporate multimedia and interactive features that enhance the reader experience. Play with placing QR codes on the pages of your print magazine that lead to videos or full interviews that add to the experience rather than replace it. 

Think of your digital content like bonus features on a DVD or Blu-ray. It’s the frosting, not the whole cake. 

5. Work With a Publishing Partner

It might seem counterintuitive — especially if you’re creating your publication in-house, but partnering with a publisher with experience working with association magazines can save money and free up your team to focus on other areas. 

Not only do agencies provide expertise in everything we’ve covered so far — printing, design, mailing and digital integration — a good publisher understands how to increase the value of your publication and even build it into a revenue-generating asset. 

When choosing a publishing partner, look for one with deep experience working with associations to be sure they understand the unique needs and challenges of the industry. 

Cutting Costs Without Cutting Value

Your association’s magazine is one of the primary ways members connect with you. Each month or quarter, they get a reminder in the mail of the value you add to their lives. And considering 43% of associations name lack of engagement as the top reason for membership attrition, having a regular point of contact is key.

“Well,” you might ask, “couldn’t they get that same thing from the emails we send out?” In a word, no. 

Do you know that feeling you get when you hold a high-quality publication? You grab a cup of coffee, settle in and flip open the front cover, ready to learn and enjoy. There’s a name for that: It’s called a “lean-back experience.” It stands in direct contrast to the online reading experience where we’re leaning forward, concentrating on the endless scroll. “There are fewer and fewer opportunities in our lives today to lean back and imagine,” according to Forbes, “That’s why print media and catalogs do still matter.”

Not only do they matter, but they’re also popular. News/Media Alliance’s 2022 Factbook found 88% of U.S. adults read a magazine in the last six months, and 67% reported they still love the touch and feel of a print magazine. 

Fast Fact

What’s more, readers report more trust in news and information they get from a print magazine than other channels. Psychologically speaking, reading paper magazines fosters a profound connection with the content and elicits strong emotional and sensory responses due to its heightened sensory involvement.

What does all this mean? Your members love your magazine and would miss it if it went away. 

Reducing the costs for your association magazine does not have to mean sacrificing quality or value. By making smart decisions and using a combination of cost-saving strategies that make sense for your organization, you can produce a high-quality publication that is both cost-effective and highly valuable to your members. 

An experienced publishing partner can help you with all these things, not only cutting costs, but saving time and headaches for your already overworked association staff.

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