Skip to main content

Bringing trade magazines into the digital world

If print media was slow to adapt to digital at the start, the last few years have seen a rush to try new models and bring the print experience into the mobile age: paywalls, memberships, responsive designs and new storytelling technologies have all been adopted with gusto. Magazines have been an exception. The whole medium seems to scream analog: a slower, more image-rich, more tactile experience. But not all mags are created equal: trade and association publications have been a bright spot, not just for journalists looking for a glossy home, but for advertisers, publishers and marketing firms seeking an audience that doesn’t click away to the first GIF they see.

Trade publications tend to get ignored in analysis of new media economics—they don’t scream at you from newsstands—but in many ways they’re a case study of how media adapts to technology.  For one, trades have been around about as long as their editorial counterparts; The Progressive Farmer, for example, has been a source of agricultural news and information for nearly 130 years. As the content marketing arms of trade groups, associations and industries they’ve long embraced the idea of mixing useful, objective, well-written content (high-end trades consistently pay some of the best freelance rates) with a marketing mission.

What is the transition to digital looking like? We spoke with the principals at Madison/Miles Media in Dallas-Fort Worth, a soup-to-nuts shop whose client list includes the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, Associated Locksmiths of America, Safe and Vault Technology and other groups you didn’t know had huge memberships and interesting stories to tell.

Here’s what CEO Adam Weiss and creative director Mario Medina had to say about shifting a tried and true format into a new age and providing a wide range of services—from content strategy to advertising support.

Adam Weiss, CEO of Madison/Miles Media

Adam Weiss says interactive magazines are a smart move for trade publications.

Is there a specific type of work that your clients usually request?

The projects vary from company to company, with different pieces like content strategy, print and digital, and ad sales coming into the mix, but we mostly deal with trade association work. Associations are one of the original marketers. They trade in information. It makes sense to work with them because you don’t have to sell them on the value of content. Magazines are still a big part of the association world, and for many associations it’s still the frontrunner in terms of revenue.

Your clients cover a large swath of topics and industries. How do you navigate such a large landscape and keep up with demand for quality content?

Flexibility is key. We use freelancers to cover specific topics, but otherwise we can do it in-house. For one client, the Dallas Morning News, we helped them create content for their healthcare division. We came in with the idea to realign their content, looking at the advertiser needs, and looking for the point where readers and advertisers intersect.

Mario Medina, creative director at Madison/Miles Media

Mario Medina, creative director at Madison/Miles Media

One of the services you offer is app development. How does this approach fit with the trade associations?

The forward-thinking companies look to the apps. Many people just roll their print magazine right into the app, typically if they aren’t as well versed in the capabilities. The Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association did a great job creating an interactive magazine rather than just putting print into digital. I’ve never heard of a digital magazine saying the new digital model didn’t work, but that’s not always the case for those who do the straight rollover and create a glorified flip book.

Is there an approach to social media that you’ve found works best with your clients?

With social media, we found that we start with a vertical focus and end up with a horizontal outreach. You have to think broader, cross-platform. Social media doesn’t happen in isolation. For example, you have to look at the calendar in advance, plan for the upcoming quarter, create a white paper and then distribute it into social media.

Thanks to Adam and Mario for sharing their experiences. To learn more about their work at Madison/Miles Media and further thoughts on the digital marketing landscape, take a look at their blog.