Active Interest Media has a growing business selling books, videos, subscriptions and event tickets online, though Zimbalist says selling third-party merchandise is "not the future of AIM."
"I think selling merchandise is best left to merchandisers," he says.
Online, Kalmbach thinks more in terms of tiered access and rich offerings to paid subscribers, such as exclusive projects and designs for jewelry makers and model train enthusiasts or subscription-only industry news feeds.
An Evolving Market
Challenges for AIM include managing the reduction of newsstand sales as a source of circulation, as well as the shift of the "whole ecosystem" of print distribution—direct mail, fulfillment, marketing, etc.—to digital channels. "How do you go out there and reach consumers and get them into the [app] store and get them to subscribe and renew? You need a whole new skill set that all of us are developing."
A big challenge for any enthusiast publisher is the volume of distractions people have today, Keefe points out. "We are not immune to the alternatives the Internet has given people," he says. "The trick is for us to help readers understand that the curated, edited, vetted material we publish is more reliable and more rewarding than looking up on the Internet how to build a model railroad layout."
Kalmbach has big plans for Discover, having launched a website redesign in November 2012 and preparing for a major print redesign this fall. "We're not planning any major changes in the DNA of the magazine," he says. "We bought what we consider to be a very successful magazine … it's done a wonderful job for a long time of serving a broad audience of people with an interest in science."
F+W recently acquired Interweave, a publisher of craft books and magazines. In addition to new magazine and event brands, the purchase adds a line of online craft education and streaming video to the company's stable of craft-related products, as well as community marketing and digital magazine expertise, Domville says. "There was surprisingly little crossover between the business as [there are] some very distinctive strengths on both sides." PE