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November 5, 2015

By David Briggs
Vice President, Sales and Marketing/Lane Press

IRMA 2015 LogoIf you’ve ever been to the annual IRMA (International Regional Magazine Association) Conference, you know this: The level and intensity of the collaboration between attendees, including vendor sponsors, is unique. The event brings together a tight-knit group of regional publishers who love what they do and come ready to share and learn. Predictably, inspiration ensues. This year was no exception. I attended the annual conference in San Diego, California last month, and here are some of the gems I took away:

Darhil Crooks of The Atlantic, whose career in design has featured stops at Esquire and Ebony, presented as a keynote speaker. Darhil discussed his redesign work at The Atlantic with a heavy focus on how the creative process is connected to cover design.

Takeaway: If you are keen on tracking design innovation for magazines, you should be following New York Magazine, WIRED, NY Times Magazine, GQ, and Esquire.

I routinely find publishers’ roundtable discussions to be informative, regardless of the conference. These sessions are an opportunity to hear, firsthand, about the real-world business challenges of the people responsible for making payroll. The IRMA discussions did not disappoint.

Takeaway: Think audience development first. I roughly tracked the amount of time spent on different discussion topics. Audience development (digital and print) consumed approximately 75% of the conversation. Driving more revenue is important, but the foundation for revenue is an engaged, documented (e.g. demographics and more), and well-understood audience.

When did the most critical discipline for publishing become brand development? I’m not sure. What I am sure of is that publishers who have paid close attention to developing their brand are reaping substantial monetary rewards for having done so.

Takeaway: If you haven’t picked up a book on branding or brushed up your brand development skills lately, do so immediately. You do not have to take my word for it. Check out what these publishers are doing as a consequence of building a publishing brand: Our State (North Carolina) and Cottage Life (Canada).

Bonus Takeaway: You have to be the brand you build. Every event, show, product, content channel, or issue of your magazine must be your brand brought to life. That’s the gold standard.

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