The Best Time to Publish

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Non-profit Magazines: Pick Your Date!

Publishing non-profit magazines is bliss – there’s so much freedom! With freedom come choices. One major decision is to figure out when and how often to publish the magazine. It’s very easy to pick a traditional pattern and let the budget direct the choice. Common options for a traditional print magazine are monthly, six times a year or four times a year. All potentially good choices, depending on the purpose of the magazine and the way it is financed.

Two Main Financing Options

The main financing options for non-profit magazines are subscriptions or advertisements or the combination of these two. However, it seems that most often it’s either one or the other. Advertising option requires a lot of effort to sell advertising space, so if the subscription model is functioning, most publications tend to content themselves with it.

This also stems from the nature of many non-profit magazines as a mouthpiece of the association publishing them and the magazine being originally just a bonus for the members. However, many magazines have evolved far from that humble origin and could in fact start to consider themselves as independent publications.

Subscription Model: Reader is the King

In the case of subscriptions, consider the topics of the magazine and when they would be most valuable and entertaining for your readers.

Let’s take Maatiainen, one of the magazines I edit, as an example. It is published four times a year. The main topics of Maatiainen are gardening, animal husbandry and traditional landscapes. The magazine is financed entirely by subscriber income a.k.a. association membership fees. Its publisher is an association, whose purpose is to promote all these topics: Maatiainen ry.

Maatiainen comes out on February, May, October and December. There’s logic to these dates:

  • The first issue of the year is published in February together with a seed catalogue, the latter determining the publishing date for the magazine too. The seed sales are an important income source for the association, so this issue is very important.
  • Second issue comes out in May, just before the summer begins. This is a good time to escort readers to the delights of gardening and husbandry at the beginning of the peak season.
  • Third issue is published in October. It is the time of harvest, afterthought of summer’s activities and preparation to the autumn.
  • The fourth issue is published in December with Christmas theme.

This schedule has its pitfalls:

  • December and February issues are very close to each other, so in practice they’ve being made partly at the same time.
  • February is a bit late for seed orders, as other seed catalogues come out earlier. However, Maatiainen association gets its seeds in later. This is a bit of a problem.
  • There’s a very long pause between May and October issues. There are good reasons for it, though. For Maatiainen subscribers summer is an outdoor season, when reading is not the priority. It takes time after summer vacations to get in the articles from the contributors. And October is the natural harvest season, which gives a good theme for the autumn issue.

In other words there are quite a lot of external factors determining the publishing dates. How would you arrange Maatiainen’s publishing schedule? Let me know in the comments!

Advertising Model: Reader and Advertiser Both at the Throne

Are advertisers your financial backbone? In that case the needs of the businesses should be kept in mind, when planning the publishing schedule. This can be a difficult task in the withering ad markets of the print media.

Different types of businesses have very different needs regarding advertising. Supermarkets look for, if not daily, at least weekly publishing. Fortunately, the slower publishing rate works for the local small businesses. A plumber and a hairdresser are mostly looking for exposure, which suits perfectly for a magazine with more spread out publishing dates.

The other non-profit magazine I’m editing, Oulunkyläinen, is a good example of this.  Oulunkyläinen is a magazine published by Oulunkylä-Seura, a local residents’ association. The magazine is distributed in 11 boroughs and is an important platform for discussion on local issues. It is published as a tabloid newspaper and comes out six times a year.

The publishing months are February, March, May, September, October and late November. There’s a long pause in the summer with this magazine too. The reason for the pause is summer vacation, which keep both readers and voluntary contributors at bay. The publishing dates are set to precede major events: Valentine’s Day and the school winter break, Easter, the end of the school year and the start of the summer vacations, Halloween and the school autumn break, Christmas season. These are all also major commercial opportunities for businesses and thus interesting advertising seasons.

Would a different publishing schedule work better for this kind of magazine? The physical appearance of the magazine seems to arouse one recurring misunderstanding. A tabloid form being connected with daily newspapers, it is difficult for the readers and contributors to understand that the magazine is in fact a periodical. There are similar local magazines in Helsinki published by associations that come out monthly or even weekly.

Next year there will be an exception to the normal publishing schedule. Communal elections are being held in Finland on the 9th April and thus it is important to publish the second issue right before the elections. Why so? There are two main reasons: to have the opportunity to dwell in important community issues on the articles and to get the ever so important candidate advertisements in the magazine.

This brings us to the second main factor of magazines financed by advertisements. It is important to think businesses when planning the publishing schedule, but it is equally important to keep the readers in mind. Because ultimately, the magazine is interesting for the advertisers only, if it is interesting for the readers. With timely, discussion provoking content, which also the readers deem important, it is possible to create and maintain a broad readership.

What is your publications publishing schedule and what’s the logic behind it?

Susan

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Non-profit Publications – What Are They?

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Do you need more than an editor to make a publication?

My home country, Finland, is sometimes called the promised land of associations. We have approximately 135 000 registered associations with a population of 5 million. It perhaps illustrates this nation’s eagerness to formalize even the grass root activities. Many of these associations also publish their own magazines or periodicals.

Very often this publication is the result of one member’s efforts. It is published when enough material has been gathered. In the other end of the spectrum are the magazines of very large non-profits. These publications are put together by media companies that specialize in client magazines. In between these two extremes, there are quite a few professional and ambitious publications, made by tiny editorial teams.

Most often the staff consists of an Editor-in-chief and a graphic designer (and sometimes even these are just one person). All the articles and photos are acquired from volunteer contributors. Thus the quality range can be wide and articles sometimes require a lot of editing before they can be published. On the other hand, volunteer contributors are often the most passionate and committed experts in their own field.

Where do you find content?

The field of the non-profit determines what kind of articles one can get to its publication. Some fields are filled with prolific writers, who are eager to share their experiences and studies. It might be that a non-profit publication is for these writers an excellent outlet to spread their knowledge. This is of course a win-win situation for all: the writer, the non-profit and the readers.

The lifeline of the local newspapers, published by non-profit associations, is the hunger to get exposure for local issues by organizations and local residents. Residents often find the local newspaper an important channel to influence communal politicians and bureaucrats alike and to bring forward topics that the national media doesn’t pay attention to. This kind of local media is in fact an excellent way to promote a common cause by bringing together local associations and other groups.

Are you a non-profit publication editor?

I am the Editor-in-chief for two non-profit publications: Maatiainen and Oulunkyläinen. Maatiainen is a specialist magazine focusing on heritage plant and domestic animal species. The scope of the magazine is broad; it covers topics from eco-friendliness to traditional tools. Gardening, husbandry and traditions yield an infinite treasure trove of topics. Oulunkyläinen is a local newspaper. It is published in Helsinki, in 11 suburban neighborhoods and it reports about all sides of the local life. In this publication, local events, people and small companies are in focus.

All though I run two non-profit publications, the field itself is somewhat unfamiliar to me. In Finland there is no common platform for people making this kind of publications. Should we have one? I would certainly like to exchange thoughts with other non-profit editors every now and then. These publications share some special features that people at larger commercial publications are not aware of.

Are you also making a non-profit publication? Drop me a line in the comments and share your thoughts!

Susan

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