Should you take your editorial in-house or not?

Help with making the editorial decision

Should you handle editorial in-house?

I recently met with a client who was looking to overhaul their somewhat dated membership magazine and who were faced with the question of whether to take the editorial out of house or not. With many NGB’s and membership associations facing reduced funding, freeing up valuable staff budget for other roles can be an attractive option for the Board. Commercial and membership managers are now required to cover a multitude of roles, some of which may be more financially pressing than chasing copy for the member’s magazine.
To these multi-tasking officers finding an agency that can take over the editorial headache can seem appealing, but at what cost? Obviously it depends on what the provider is offering – a specialist editor with in-depth knowledge of the subject area could be the perfect solution but depending on the frequency of the title this may not be a fulltime role for them, in which case their availability may be limited to just a few weeks in the magazine cycle.

Whilst handing over the job to a more qualified and experienced expert might appear the best solution, in reality much of the copy chasing and info gathering is often more efficiently (and cheaply), handled in-house. Somehow colleagues find it easier to prevaricate and put off writing articles when a stranger is chasing them – not so easy when someone is standing at the end of their desk! Conscientious staff members can also be wary of speaking with agency writers, concerned about being ‘on message’ and indeed exactly what the organisation message is that week.

‘But we don’t have anyone with the time or ability to edit the magazine’, I hear you cry. Possibly not, but a good agency will be able to work closely with a keen communications exec. to offer a guiding hand, check on house style and voice, spot sponsor branding issues and between them cover the ‘editor’ role. The editorial programme can be pre-planned with the membership/marketing/commercial director responsible for a year ahead and then regularly reviewed and adapted on a rolling 3-issue basis. This way the organisation can keep ownership and control of the content and more importantly be seen by the readership to be the true voice of the organisation.

This is not to say a freelance or agency supplied editor can’t do a great job for a membership organisation. Ideally with a strong interest in the magazine subject, a good editor will soon pick up the technicalities, jargon and brand style guide, and can be the perfect solution to an over stretched membership department. For organisations with a quarterly magazine this can be the perfect fit, as the frequency would not support employing a dedicated editor in-house.

One area to watch with any Editor who spends a long time in the role is that the title remains in touch with the grass roots membership – those that have just joined and those you are seeking to attract. It is a function of human nature that the more you learn about a subject, the more you become involved with it’s industry and the more press launches you get invited to – there is likely be an unconscious slide to polarise the magazine content towards the top end of the market, be that elite athletes, high end equipment or the most glamorous venues. This can apply to both staff editors and freelancers. If you recognise the symptoms do not be afraid to ‘refresh’ the editorial viewpoint.

Whichever path you take there will be a solution that works best for your organisation, and a good media agency should be able to offer you all the options to find the best fit to your specialist need. Legacy Sport Media can provide all these services and has the experience of working with many different client sizes and set-ups to be able to suggest what might fit best in your own situation.

How to reduce the cost of your membership magazine distribution.

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.

Legacy sponsored sailor Allen Burrell claims 7th at 2013 Finn World Masters

Burrell in GBR 2, makes a clean start in the medal race.

Legacy Sport Media sponsored sailor Allen Burrell claims a top 10 spot in the highly competitive 2013 Finn World Masters. 

British sailor Burrell came 7th overall out of 285 contenders from 29 countries in the biggest Finn sailing event ever last week in La Rochelle, France.

The exciting medal race was held in an exhausting 25+ knot gusty wind in the mouth of the river, with a roaring tide and short waves. This was the first time the World Masters event has used the double scoring medal race format – last year’s championship planned to but a lack of wind curtailed it taking place.
‘It was tremendously exciting‘, said Allen, after the 10 boats were recall for an early start, ‘ it was really tense on the start line and pretty scary downwind in the huge gusts.’ The short windward/leeward course was held just off the harbour breakwater, where a crowd of spectators had clambered out along to view the spectacle. Burrell started well but was flagged by the on-the-water jury for a dubious port and starboard crossing with Dutchman Karel Van Hellemond which sent him to the back of the fleet after a penalty turn. Burrell staged a remarkable recovery on the short second upwind leg to claim 5th in the race and 7th overall, just ahead of French rival Laurent Hay.
Final results top 10

1 CZE 1 Michael MAIER 10 (1)
2 GER 711 Andre BUDZIEN 17 (3)
3 USA 505 Erik LIDECIS 20 (4)
4 LTU 7 Tauras RYMONIS 25 (5)
5 NED 41 Karel VAN HELLEMOND 34 (2)
6 GER 193 Thomas SCHMIDT 34 (8)
7 GBR 2 Allen BURRELL 38 (6)
8 FRA 75 Laurent HAY 38 (7)
9 DEN 80 Michael STAAL 47 (9)
10 GBR 42 Adrian BRUNTON 59 (10)