Don't abandon print magazines just yet, charities warned

Report shows it's vital for voluntary organisations to consult supporters about how they want to receive information, says Vicky Browning of CharityComms

Vicky Browning
Vicky Browning

Charities should think twice before abandoning print versions of their supporter magazines, a new report warns.

Reading Between the Lines, published today by CharityComms, a membership body for charity communications professionals, says that print publications continue to be an important channel for charities that want to communicate with their supporters.

The charity surveyed 126 sector professionals in August and found that 65 per cent of charities continued to produce printed magazines.

Most, however, said they had switched from producing shorter printed newsletters to online versions.

Respondents said the main benefit of printed magazines and newsletters for readers was that they were something tangible that recognised a charity's supporters. Other benefits cited included providing supporters with access to information whenever they wanted and the chance for print titles to be passed physically from one reader to another.

The research found that digital publications were becoming more popular, with 24 per cent of respondents producing a digital magazine for campaigners. Respondents said that the attraction of digital publications was their interactivity, with nine out of 10 people saying the fact that readers could take immediate action through online publications was very important or important. Eighty-seven per cent pointed to a reduction in production costs as a main attraction.

"The research has illustrated that it’s vital charities talk to their audiences about how they want to receive information," say Vicky Browning, director of CharityComms, and Trina Wallace, the author of the report, in their joint introduction.

"And while growing numbers of people are using the internet and owning smartphones and tablets, it’s a risk for charities to wholly replace print publications with digital alternatives. Rather, charities can use the opportunities offered by digital approaches to think about content more broadly."

The pair say that "print is still clearly a valuable medium for charity communications with various audiences, as is digital", and that perceptions of who might be online are not always correct.

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