Journals On Topic

Association Journals: Keep Printing or Stop the Presses?

Despite clear growth in digital readership, many people still prefer reading print publications over their digital counterparts. Print can serve as a welcome escape from an increasingly noisy digital world. This alone should give pause to scholarly associations considering moving their print publication subscriptions to an online-only format. For those weighing the decision, it’s important to consider how the change will impact not only members, but the association as well.

Value of print publications for members

Print publications are a long-standing value-add for most associations, and as many associations look for ways to strengthen their relationships with members, it’s important to consider the impact of completely eliminating the printed journal. These publications serve to deliver relevant and meaningful information to members and build trust, credibility, and authority for associations. So, before you choose to discontinue the print edition of your journal, ask yourself:

  • Will the elimination of a print journal hurt membership?
  • Will we replace the print publication with something even more valuable for our members?
  • Will we retain a digital version of the publication?
  • Should we consider an alternative printing schedule (e.g., move from monthly to quarterly) to meet our members’ needs?
  • Would an overhaul of our editorial calendar yield a better publication for our members and support continued effort?

Print journals are a staple of association memberships. Although the number of digital publications has risen in recent years, the tactile appreciation for print publications can’t be denied.

Value of print publications for associations

Print publications give your association a tangible voice in the industry. Over the years, many associations have incorporated digital editions into their membership communications to enhance their print publication and offer increased accessibility to information. Often, associations will leverage both print and digital publications during industry events, which enables them to drive awareness, exposure, and interest in the association. This strategy has served many associations well, appealing to a variety of accessibility preferences. Given the value and reach of your publications, choosing to sunset the print edition should come as no easy decision. Some questions to consider may be:

  • Will print and postage savings outweigh potential loss in advertising revenue for a printed publication?
  • Will the association experience losses in subscription rates?
  • How will the loss of a print publication affect event outreach and engagement?
  • Will an online-only publication create the same sense of prestige and credibility as a print edition?

Print publications are an expense for associations, but their value is tremendous. Does the cost outweigh the benefit to your association? Only you can decide. But before you do, consider the impact on trust as well.

Impact on trust

Just as important as the value of print publications is the concern surrounding potential reputational damage. Digital publications are easily accessible but fraught with skepticism. Reuters suggests, “In a world where just about anyone can be a ‘publisher’ and post fake news, audiences are starting to question the validity of their sources and Gen Z seems to trust print publications over other media to deliver credible information.”

Unfortunately, a few bad experiences with false information provided online can impact the trust individuals feel with other online information, regardless of the source. Online scholarly journals are not immune to this misfortune. Some publishing models forego essential vetting processes to get content out rapidly, and misinformation may not be caught; errors may not be corrected.

Printed journals connote trust in the peer review process and diligent embrace of the scientific method. For many, they remain the gold standard for data, insights, and analyses. The value of print publications, even in our increasingly digital age, is undeniable. Yet, making the carefully considered decision to take your journal online-only doesn’t mean the print version can’t exist. Giving your members a choice of print is always an option — and a lucrative one at that — with Sheridan’s Licensed Print Management program. Read on to learn more.

Contact your Sheridan or KGL representative for a consultation or visit our contact pages (Sheridan contact page / KGL contact page) to learn how we can help streamline and simplify your publishing processes.

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