Another safety magazine bites the dust

safety-solution-01On November 15, 2016, the NSCA Foundation (NSCAF) and Westwick-Farrow Media (WFM) announced a new publishing deal for one of Australia’s few remaining occupational health and safety (OHS) publications, National Safety. The media release was very upbeat about the change but the reality is that Australian OHS professionals and business operators will lose a free, hard-copy source of safety information, Safety Solutions.

National Safety magazine is a good magazine that, although long promoted as the journal of the NSCA Foundation, has a good reputation for independent and informative OHS articles and seems to have had a loyal readership amongst OHS professionals. There had been no hint that the magazine was “in trouble” or that a change was warranted. Safety Solutions has more of an advertorial approach and seems to appeal more to the small business owner and OHS professional who is more focused on the manufacturing industry sector. The magazine has existed since 2002 and has been a consistent presence.

The volume of readership is confusing so it is hard to say how influential or important the publications are. The media release says

“From March 2017, Safety Solutions magazine will cease publishing, with all the content and resources from this brand channelled over to the new and improved National Safety magazine, which will include an industry-first total distribution of over 8,000 printed copies per issue (combined NSCA Foundation members and Safety Solutions magazine subscribers).”

8,000 sounds low, particularly when the Safety Solutions website claims

“Join OVER 40,000 fellow industrial and technology professionals across Australia & New Zealand who are members of the WF Media network and receive the following FREE benefits….”

Sure, Safety Solutions is only part of the WF Media network but it seems odd that less than 8,000 of these would read a free safety publication.

national-safety-01And that is also one of the complexities of this new publishing arrangement. National Safety is a subscription service, while Safety Solutions is free.

SafetyAtWorkBlog put some questions to Jamie Burrage, General Manager at NSCA Foundation, about the new arrangement to provide some clarity:

SAWB: Why offer National Safety in a digital format? Has this been in response to requests from readers or shown in any marketing surveys?

JB: I’ve asked most members I’ve met with or spoken to in the last year – and it’s around a 50/50 split of those that prefer having the magazine digitally to those that wish to continue receiving the print version. Of those that want digital it was because of the ease of being able to read on a tablet/laptop whilst traveling etc. Those that want print can display in reception areas and like to receive a tangible product. Being able to choose the format from 2017 means we can appease everyone and add value to those who would prefer the digital option.

SWAB: If subscribers choose the digital version, given that there will be no printing costs with this option, will it be cheaper than a subscription for the equivalent hard copy?

JB: No – cost will remain the same regardless of the option chosen. Choosing both will also be an option.

SAWB: Over the life of National Safety, its frequency has declined from monthly to bi-monthly to quarterly. Will the National Safety frequency remain quarterly or move to the Safety Solutions schedule of bi-monthly?

JB: It will remain quarterly, though the Safety Solutions weekly newsletter will continue to be published weekly (independently from NSCAF).

SAWB: Westwick Farrow’s media release says that National Safety magazine will be “improved” from March 2017.  Accepting that digital is only a change in format, not content, what improvements are planned?

JB: This is a commitment I’m expecting WFM to honour as part of NSCAF’s new relationship with them. I can’t speak on behalf of the Editor, but I imagine WFM will utilise the best received elements of Safety Solutions into National Safety.

Australia has very few OHS publications and even less that provide exclusive content or, and this is self-interest, pay commercial rates for articles for professionals and experts. That National Safety is continuing is the good news but the loss of Safety Solutions is a disappointment. Even though most of it was advertorials it brought all the information into a single point in a way and format that online ads will never match. And one was able to filter out the media release/advertorial fluff to identify a nugget of interest.

The publications seemed to serve two different OHS sectors, had different publication frequencies and had different editorial approaches.  Was Safety Solutions a magazine I pored over? No, but I did read it, keep it on the shelf and will miss it.  For a long time National Safety was obligatory reading, particularly when it was a more frequent publication. Whether it will be missed will rely on whether Westwick-Farrow Media can maintain the quality that it seems to have promised Jamie Burrage.

Kevin Jones

Note: I have been a paid contributor to National Safety magazine occasionally for over a decade.

Categories advertising, business, communication, hazards, media, OHS, risk, safety, small businessTags , ,

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