Lean In, Lean Back and the State of Association Publishing

folio_logoFor SHRM’s Jessica Perry, there are about a quarter million valid reasons to continue in both print and digital.

“Print versus Digital: A Strategic Choice.”

That’s the title of a panel discussion being put together for the Folio: Association Media Summit coming up May and, as part of the lead-up to the event, Folio’s Greg Dool is interviewing scheduled panelists to gauge their input.

From what we’re reading, the planning committee may want to rethink that title.

“Print and digital really do serve different purposes, and the ‘lean-in vs. lean-back’ metaphors have been long established,” says Jessica Perry, SVP of Publishing & Media at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) in an interview with Dool.

“I think even digital natives will admit that print carries a certain gravitas, in that the ‘investment’ in print underscores the lasting importance of a topic or an emerging agenda. Meantime, digital is the direct response medium—great for research, news bites, sharing, networking, and nurturing the purchase funnel.”

Wise lady.

Apparently Perry is not making suppositions here but basing her decisions on feedback from the group’s massive membership (with more than a quarter of a million members worldwide, SHRM ranks among the largest professional associations in the world, according to their website.

“SHRM is fortunate to have an engaged and accommodating member base—and we tap into it regularly for insights and feedback, both quantitative and qualitative,” Perry notes.

What the readership wants is printed content, and digital interaction. When Dool asked if they include the same content in both print and digital editions Perry replies, “We typically create a few ‘digital extras’ to accompany key HR Magazine print articles, which allows us to expand the storytelling in creative ways. These are not reliable traffic drivers, however.”

We find ourselves at a time when the impact of association media is burgeoning, and associations are choosing to surround their members with content across the channels of their choice. And many, many of those members continue to choose print.

The bottom line is this: Associations can’t afford not to print. Your audience practically demands it. Print versus digital? No, that’s not the real question for associations. We’ll be interested to hear more from the conference.