Publishing @ 50+
The AARP, the nonprofit, nonpartisan organization for Americans ages 50 and older, is itself turning 50 this year, and the timing could not be better. A host of anniversary events, culminating with the “Life@50+” national event in September in Washington, D.C. (where AARP is based), will bolster the organization’s already-high profile, as millions of baby boomers add to the ranks of the largest retirement-age cohort in history.
It may seem to the casual observer that the AARP—along with its flagship publication, AARP The Magazine—is the inevitable beneficiary of a demographic tide. Such an assumption ignores the fact that these same boomers, many of whom will be truckin’ to D.C. in September to see performances by Paul Simon and Chicago, are sophisticated media consumers with a multitude of choices and high standards for news and information. The AARP’s success in recent years has been built precisely on a refusal to take any of its potential audience for granted.
“Obviously, the reason this publication exists is that this association wants it to exist. But in the marketplace, we are competing with Sports Illustrated, Fortune, Glamour, National Geographic and everyone else for ad dollars,” says Jim Fishman, vice president and group publisher of AARP Publications, located in New York.
Getting and keeping readers means being mindful of these consumer-magazine rivals—and a whole lot more.
“Coke has a phrase they use called ‘share of belly,’ meaning they are competing not just with Pepsi, but with anything you put in your mouth,” Fishman says. “We are the same way. We are competing with anything you might do instead of reading these publications, so we are driven by all the same things that any for-profit magazine is driven by … . The fact that we are an association publisher does not let us off the hook in any way.”