Whilst many national governing bodies are experiencing a post London 2012 bounce in their membership, an unwelcome side effect can be a corresponding rise in the cost of distributing their member’s magazine. Whilst some membership managers might think this a nice problem to have surprising few NGBs actually link their membership revenues to the communications budget, leaving the Comms teams struggling to fund the deficit. Too often the result is a cutback in either frequency or pagination or both – not the ideal solution for a newly engaged association member who you wish to anchor to the sport and stakeholders you wish to keep happy.
The good news is there are now some very cost effective and reliable alternatives to Royal Mail. Companies such as TNT and Asendia can offer savings of around 15% on UK deliveries and mail consolidation companies considerably more for overseas mailing. Whilst some providers still use Royal Mail’s services for the last mile and so their rates are subject to RM wholesale rates, TNT now has their own doorstep deliveries in London and several other cities, with the benefit of being trackable. Such providers obviously need minimum collection volumes to make it viable, but printers and publishers such as Legacy Sport Media now offer this as a service for their clients who can benefit from the savings negotiated from our combined mailing volumes.
The tough question some NGBs are currently grappling with is whether to ditch print copies completely and switch to a digital only magazine. The Royal Yachting Association recently surveyed members to ask if they would read a digital edition of RYA News, as posting 100,000+ copies quarterly is clearly a major investment. However, most communications and membership managers agree that if members are paying a subscription the most tangible benefit and reason for joining is the printed magazine they receive.
Digital editions can provide the answer to reducing overall mailing volumes for client groups who find it a more useful way to access the magazine. Students who frequently change address and juniors may prefer a digital solution that fits their lifestyle better. It can then be tailored with more specific content and made more interactive with links to social media sites and embedded rich media. This could well be an ideal solution for NGBs that currently print a youth version of the membership magazine as a supplement. Getting the members opt in after showing them the added benefits and maybe cost savings of a digital alternative are key here.
Some NGB’s are nervous of moving to a digital edition, as they are concerned about the impact on their existing ABC audit figure and the consequent impact on advertising revenues. Have no fear as the Audit Bureau of Circulation can now audit digital editions – but there are some hoops to jump through such as monitoring bounce backs and the usual criteria of proving delivery.
So make 2014 the time to act on your membership magazine offering – you can re-fresh the look and feel, make it more interactive and reduce the overall costs by reviewing how you distribute the content to each of your individual client groups.
John Heyes is Publishing Director at Legacy Sport Media.