Lighting Up A Brand: John Maisel on the Success of Electrical Contractor Magazine
"Nothing works in our society without electricity and the generation, distribution, and management of that energy will determine the future of our nation."
An Interview with John Maisel, Publisher, Electrical Contractor Magazine
The National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) is the oldest (Circa 1901) largest and most successful trade association serving the $130B Electrical Contracting Industry. NECA membership represents over 60% of total industry dollar volume. Electrical Contractor magazine is the association's flagship publication, published since 1939. The EC brand leads its market in every measurable category: circulation, editorial quality/quantity, readership, preference and industry research/support services.
Sabatier: Tell me about the relationship between NECA and Electrical Contractor.
John Maisel: EC is a controlled circulation publication that is owned by the National Electrical Contractors Association.
Our circ is over 85,000 electrical contractors throughout the Americas. Going back 50 years written into the NECA bylaws is a mandate that they publish on a regular basis a periodical that is of formative value to every electrical contractor in the U.S., regardless of affiliation with NECA. That is somewhat unique among trade associations.
A good deal of the education material that the association creates/curates is available to the general contractor market. For example, Electri-International, NECA's foundation endowed with over $20 million dollars provides research materials of interest to the entire electrical contracting industry. That theme runs through a lot of what NECA does. We expand and maximize the electrical contractor in the total economic sphere.
Sabatier: So do you refer to EC as an association publication, a trade publication or both?
Sabatier: Electrical Contractor seems to get a lot of press. Why is that?
Maisel: The industry that this brand serves is undergoing dramatic paradigm shifts that directly affect the future of the industry. The two primary drivers are the changing role from an electrical contractor being a purchaser/buyer/installer to being an active participant in the design specification process. Coupled with that, the scope of EC activity now includes more sophisticated integrated building systems.
Our brand, by investing in research to indentify these trends and changes, has enabled us to respond editorially, across many channels. This provides tremendous value to our readers, to our staff and to our suppliers.
Sabatier: What is your investment in research?
Maisel: We invest six figures annually on research for EC. The old philosopher Yogi Berra allegedly said "If you don't know where you are going, chances are, you end up some place else." Over the past 43 years in trade publishing [Lebhar-Friedman, McGraw-Hill, Cahners and BPI] I have witnessed far too many brands that achieved the pinnacle of excellence only to assume that they could not fall and they lost sight of their customer.
Sabatier: How has EC responded to the digital age?
Maisel: While I am a firm believer in the future of traditional print media, especially in B2B, I also realize that as the amount of information has grown hundred-fold, that we need to synergistically incorporate the latest in digital media with our traditional print media. We have a successful site in ecmag.com. Two and half years ago we generated 300,000 page views per month and now we generate 1.6 million a month with an average viewer time over 20 minutes. We also use email, webinars, e-newsletters, social media and we are working on our tablet format.
Sabatier: Has the revenue mix changed as you expanded channels?
Maisel: Print is dominant (85%), but each of our electronic media has shown triple digit growth year over year.
Sabatier: You seem to have confidence about when and what to invest in research. Based on your longevity in trade publishing, tell me how your approach investing in technology and digital products. For example, you don't have a digital edition. What determines where you go and when with new media?
Maisel: We asked our audience about preferred method of receiving our content and 85% prefer print. They use the website to complement and fill additional information needs. They don't read digital so we don't have a digital magazine. Research has led us to take a serious look at tablets because they are starting to be used by EC's.
There are times we give our audience things they don't ask for or know they need. But remember my business model is 100% advertising. If my reader isn't using digital, then my advertiser does not want to be there. No monetization.
Sabatier: What is a challenge your brand has faced and successfully met in the last year and what can we learn from it?
Maisel: The biggest challenge I face as a publisher is to convince our advertising base of the dramatically changed role of our audience and how those changes affect their bottom line. Basically, we are pulling our industry along. We are addressing topics of emerging technologies and market opportunities. Nothing works in our society without electricity and the generation, distribution, and management of that energy will determine the future of our nation.
Sabatier: In closing, what keeps you up at night?
Maisel: Am I missing something competitively in the industry, with my audience or how I manage this business?
How would you describe your brand: leading, tracking, or following?
Check your budget. How much do you invest in research?
John Maisel Bio
John W. Maisel has been the Publisher of Electrical Contractor Magazine for the past 10 years. His B-to-B publishing experience of over 40 years includes working at Lebhar Friedman, McGraw-Hill, Cahners and BPI in advertising sales, sales management, publisher and group publisher positions. Through both good and challenging times, he has delivered consistent patterns of growth in revenue and profit. At Electrical Contractor, he has led several award winning re-designs and launch of both print and digital products, while consistently producing an above budget bottom line.
Lou Ann Sabatier has 35 years of experience in the publishing industry. Ms. Sabatier has been deeply involved in all aspects of publishing; including strategic planning,business development, business and financial management, audience development, advertising sales, digital media and operations management. Currently Ms. Sabatier is Principal at Sabatier Consulting and Communications Director of 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative.