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Science News revamps for growth

Science News, the official publication of the nonprofit Society for Science and the Public, will relaunch in April under a new growth strategy.

The magazine, with its quick, easy-to-read approach to science news, currently enjoys an average circulation of 140,000 for its weekly editions. The relaunch will move it to a bi-weekly print cycle and, executives hope, a rate base of closer to 200,000.

“The challenge for Science News, as for all print pubs, is that print readership is not necessarily growing, and the Web is an important source of competition,” said John Benditt, principal of DrivingWheel Consulting. Benditt was brought on to help guide Science News through its transition. 

“The challenge for Science News was to reinvent both in print and on the Web and reach out to a larger audience,” Benditt said. “The magazine has had an extremely loyal audience and is driven by subscription revenue. Customers are willing to pay quite a significant subscription price, but circulation has declined a little.”

Science News’ redesign, headed by recent hire Eric Mongeon, should be more contemporary and colorful — a push to attract younger readers and women. The magazine’s reader base right now is at least 80% male and averaging 50 years of age.

The revamped title, hitting newsstands at the end of April, will also be bigger than the old 16-page book, coming in at 36 pages. Some of those extra pages will be for advertisers — a small base that Benditt says will grow to include publishers, energy companies, technology, travel and other sectors.

In conjunction with the redesign and the relaunch, Science News is investing heavily in marketing. The company undertook one direct mail campaign in 2007, but 2008 will see two or three, with new packages and offers. Circ modeling is currently being outsourced to companies like Granite Bay Media.

Science News is not going to rely just on direct mail,” Benditt insisted. “All smart publishers are trying to put together a range of different sources. The magazine is going to use direct mail more heavily than in the past, but it’s also going to develop affinity partnerships with science-minded organizations and market to their membership.”

The Science News Web site will relaunch at the same time as the magazine. It will switch to a daily reporting style and share some content with the print publication. Benditt said the site will be leveraged as a marketing tool for print subscriptions.

Elizabeth Marincola, president and publisher of Science News, started the revamp of the 80-year-old magazine last year. She called on Benditt to help reinvigorate the title and brought in Jonathan Oleisky as associate publisher and Tom Siegfried as editor-in-chief. The company is also creating an in-house circulation department and hiring a circ manager and an ad sales staff.

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