What's the net worth.
Want to start publishing online but don't know how - or where - to begin? ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT recently asked three association executives with online publishing experience to explain how they financed their online launches, whether their print products are being affected, and what advice they have for other electronic pioneers. They don't have all the answers, but that hasn't kept them from jumping in and trying to figure it out as they go. Whatever online publishing stage your association is in, be assured that plenty of others are right there with you hunting for the same missing pieces. Still, since much can be learned from the stories of other explorers, you're certain to gain new insight from these online journeys.
Filling an unmet demand
Earth Interactions (earthinteractions.org), a joint online publication of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), .Washington, D.C., the American Meteorological Society, Boston, and the Association of American Geographers, Washington, D.C., is gearing up to publish its first article. Launched with the help of a grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the interactive scientific research journal will derive much of its operating income from subscriptions.
"We certainly expect that the journal will ultimately cover its own costs. We would be pleased if it turned out that it could provide more than its direct and indirect expenses," says Judy Holoviak, director of publications for AGU, which serves 33,000 members and has a $19 million annual operating budget and 120 staff members, five of whom are dedicated to various online activities.
Holoviak has high hopes for the online journal because it fills a scientific niche by providing information - such as moving images, three-dimensional images, and manipulative mathematics - that cannot readily be obtained elsewhere. For example, subscribers will be able to test an author's mathematical theories by plugging their own numbers into the equations. Without these medium-specific capabilities, she admits, the associations would never have given the joint project the go-ahead.
"Basically, the journal has the capability of allowing the reader to interact with information that's being presented - information that you could never publish because you can't put a moving image on a (printed) page."
Establishing rates, defining an issue
Scientists will pay $45 for one-year subscriptions to Earth Interactions; they will not receive a guaranteed number of issues or articles. It could be 12. It could be more. It could be less. What they are guaranteed is access to all of the articles that are published online during their one-year term.
"In the electronic environment, there's no such thing as an issue," Holoviak explains. "Papers will be issued as papers are ready." She predicts that each paper will range between 8,000 and 13,000 words.
To drum up subscriptions during the first year, the three societies are providing coupons to potential subscribers. Members simply redeem the coupon electronically to receive their first year's subscription free.
In establishing the $45 subscription rate, Holoviak admits she did not use a computer model or rigorous mathematics. "That was disquieting for me, probably because of what we go through to set the subscription prices for our many print journals," she says. "In the end, we had to come up with a number, and we thought $45 was reasonable."
The three associations will divvy up income, just as they divide copyediting, production, and review responsibilities. They make decisions by consensus, relying heavily on e-mail. "It's sort of a troika," Holoviak explains. "Each society has a key person. There isn't a single, solitary person in charge."
Going beyond your print product
"Our objective is to build synergism between our print magazine and Today's Realtor On-line, (www.realtor.com)," says Pamela Geurds Kabati, director of media development for the National Association of Realtors, Washington, D.C., a professional association representing 720,000 members with 390 staff members and an annual operating budget of nearly $66 million. Within NAR's publications domain, no individual is devoted full-time to the online publication, although that is expected to change with NAR's launch this month of Today's Realtor Online.
"Today's Realtor Online won't use the Internet - or Intranet - as simply a different way to deliver material people now receive in print. That's a waste of their time and ours. We don't believe that people will want to read a 60-, 70-, or 80-page publication on screen. We don't think that's the strength of the medium," says Kabati.
Today's Realtor Online is part of a larger effort by the Realtor organization at its national, state, and local levels to create a common communication platform for the entire Realtor family. This organization-wide Intranet site, One Realtor Place, is designed to serve as a single point of contact between Realtors and their association at all its levels. It's as part of One Realtor Place - also debuting this month - that members will be able to access Today's Realtor Online.
"Our objective is to create an interactive and timely online information resource for members that complements the material they receive in the printed book and goes beyond it in as many ways as the online medium allows," says Kabati. Here are three ways Today's Realtor Online will accomplish this.
1. Expert follow-up. Suppose the print magazine carries a financial planning article that quotes a particular expert. The online publication will allow members to query the expert online for two or three weeks after the release of the article. While Today's Realtor Online isn't. likely to repeat the financial planning article from the print magazine, Kabati says it would include a note of explanation such as "This 'Ask the Expert' feature is based on an article in the March issue of Today's Realtor. Click here to access our database and pull up the article."
2. Hyperlinks. The printed magazine contains a column called "Online Finds" that lists Web sites that members will likely find valuable in their businesses or personal lives. Today's Realtor Online will contain this column with an added feature: With a click, readers will be able to view the listed Web sites.
3. Personalized calendar of events. "The editorial staff has toyed several times with doing a calendar of events in the print magazine, and we always thought it didn't have enough value for enough people to be worth the cost of the print space," says Kabati. "Online, our space is infinite. And online, we can make a calendar of events truly valuable. We've developed it with a free, built-in reminder service."
Suppose new regulation is taking effect April 15. By clicking on the entry, members will be able to view the full text of the regulation and how NAR leaders think it will influence them. Members can also receive automatic reminders of important dates. "These are some of the ways we're trying to add value, to make what we do online different from what we do in print," says Kabati.
Paying for the publication
At least for now, the association's print budget is absorbing the costs of online publishing. But Kabati is hopeful that advertising sales will help support the online product in the future.
"From the beginning, we have taken the tack that we wanted to create a product that was extremely useful and valuable to our readers but also very salable to our advertisers," she continues. "We have as an objective to generate money from this. Whether it's enough to cover our costs, whether it becomes a moneymaker for us remains to be seen. We are doing all we can in how we design it and how we position it to create the opportunity for it to be a revenue generator. But, at its launch, we see Today's Realtor Online as primarily a member service."
Today's Realtor advertising sales representatives are positioning the association's products in the marketplace as a brand identity, or an information franchise, with three major components: Today's Realtor, the print magazine; Today's Realtor Online; and Today's Realtor Interactive, an 800 phone line that is an advertiser-supported component of the print magazine providing updates on economic and legislative issues and an easy way for readers to vote on opinion polls and leave comments for the magazine's staff.
"We're looking to sell our advertisers packages," Kabati says, "to sell across the brand. That creates more options for them, and it creates more synergism among our products."
Creating Web advertising opportunities
Online advertisers will have three opportunities to reach Realtors through Today's Realtor Online.
1. Content partnerships. Content partnerships allow the advertiser to "provide valuable, objective content that meets our editorial standards," Kabati explains. For instance, a mortgage company might provide current information on financial trends or a glossary of financial terms. A byline would indicate, "This information is presented to you by XYZ Mortgage." For more information, readers could click to link to the company's site.
2. Interactive display. "We are also offering a form of banner advertising that we are calling interactive display advertising because we think that advertisers are going to be more interested in having their ads integrated with editorial content the way they are in a print publication, as opposed to just strung as a banner across the top or bottom of the page," says Kabati. "We have white space built into our screen where, as someone is viewing an article, there can be an ad on the right or left margin."
3. Classified ads. With Today's Realtor Online, advertisers can buy positions in an online classified advertising section. By purchasing a key word in the search engine of the classified section, a company can ensure that it will be among the first companies listed in a key-word search.
The Information Technology Training Association, Austin, Texas, a small association with an annual operating budget of $800,000, is embracing online publishing in a big way. "You might as well practice what you preach," says Doug McBride, executive director of the 250-member association. Of ITTA's six staff members, 1 1/2 positions are dedicated to its online activities.
ITTA publishes newsletters, a magazine, and updates online. "Everything we do, we publish online. We are in the process now of reducing both our printing and postage in the next fiscal year by 50 percent. We're going to stop printing a considerable amount of material and make it online-avail-able only," says McBride.
As the association's online publishing has evolved, its printed newsletter has adjusted accordingly, such that the online counterpart, ITTA News (www.itta.org), drives the print product. "When we first started online publishing, we were taking the contents of our printed newsletter and putting it on our Web site. Now we've switched. We put a new article on our Web site as often as every day or two, and the (printed) newsletter that goes out at the end of our quarter is a summation of all that information."
Although a big fan of the electronic medium, McBride is the first to point out its limitations. Three online challenges come to mind.
1. Finding Information. Even his technology-savvy members - technology training companies - are used to obtaining association information by opening their mail. The information finds them; they don't have to search for it. "The problem with the Web right now is that it relies on people pulling information out of it," McBride says. "Historically, we're used to having information pushed into our face."
2. Pricing information. Online pricing and print pricing are world's apart, he points out. "A business practices report that we might charge $500 for may very well be only $50 on the Web. The theory behind that is you have lower production costs."
3. Keeping information current. "You have to move from what I call a monolithic model of publishing to an incremental model," he says. "You are constantly publishing rather than collecting data and publishing on a particular date."
Increasing member participation and influence
What is member reaction to ITTA's online publishing push? "Extremely positive," McBride says. "As an industry, we already live in this electronic environment, so it's not surprising that we would embrace it. For communication purposes, it is far more effective for our group.
"This is a real significant opportunity for all associations to be in constant contact with their membership," he continues. "We don't measure ourselves by revenues and profits. We measure ourselves by influence. And this is a way to have a dramatic increase in your association's influence."
RELATED ARTICLE: Web Audits on the Rise
Circulation auditing firms for traditional print publications have launched auditing services for online publishing ventures as well. Audit Bureau of Verification Services, Inc., is a subsidiary of the Audit Bureau of Circulations. ABVS provides data for new and nontraditional advertiser-supported, census-based media, including Web activity and trade show attendance.
Another firm, BPA International, provides verification of the number of registered users and key demographics and traffic patterns that advertisers can evaluate when buying interactive ads. For example, in one independent Web audit, BPA provides quarterly reports for The Economist Group's d.Comm (www.dcomm.com), a Web site providing news and information targeted to information technology professionals. A quarterly report of d.Comm for the three-month period ending September 1996 confirmed that
* as of September 30, d.Comm had 20,988 registered users;
* 18 percent of all registered users are in the information technology industry, 10.5 percent work in communications, 9.4 percent work in education, 8.3 percent are in the banking/finance industry, and 9 percent are students;
* three fourths of d. Comm registered users are between the ages of 26 and 50 (40.8 percent fall into the 26-35 age range and 34.5 percent into the 36-50 range), 13.6 percent are between the ages of 19 and 25, and 9.8 percent are older than 50;
* nearly half - 47.2 percent - of the site's registered users are from the United States; and
* the most popular day of the week for accessing d. Comm is Tuesday, and the most popular hour of the day is 11 a.m. EST.
For more information about BPA's Web audit activities and reports, visit BPA's Web site, www.bpai.com, or call (212) 7793200. For details about ABVS and its services, go to www.accessabc.com, or call (847) 605-0909.
RELATED ARTICLE: Print Specialists Aren't Out of a Job - Yet
As online publications catch on, will printed association magazines, journals, and newsletters become passe? Not in the foreseeable future, predicts Pamela Geurds Kabati, director of media development, National Association of Realtors, Washington, D.C. "The role of print may change. But how exactly it changes remains to be seen," she says. For now, Kabati believes that print has five advantages over online publications.
1. Portability. "Even with a laptop, Today's Realtor Online will not rival the portability of Today's Realtor print magazine."
2. Tangibility. "Our readers have a tactile relationship with Today's Realtor. They can smell it. They can touch it. They can rip pages out. They can post things up. That isn't going to happen online. There's a distance that you have from your reader online. While you certainly have more interaction online, it's a different experience."
3. Accessibility. "Another advantage of print is that it comes to you. Somebody drops it on your desk. Online, you must go to it."
4. Readability. "Screen reading is tiring on your eyes. I don't like to read lengthy articles online. I prefer quick information."
5. Profitability. "Print will be around as long as advertisers want it. It will be a long time before our online publication generates the revenue our print publication does."
Margo Vanover Porter is a freelance writer based in Locust Grove, Virginia.
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|Title Annotation:||three associations describe their ways of making online publishing pay off|
|Author:||Porter, Margo Vanover|
|Date:||Mar 1, 1997|
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