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In 1984, Walter Mondale went up against then-incumbent presidential candidate Ronald Regan, losing all but one of the 50 states. The same year, National Journal introduced its convention daily to cover the nominating process—the first publication to do so—as it has done every election cycle since.
“At that time, no one was covering the conventions as in depth or looking at it through the lens of being a news gathering opportunity for an entire publication,” says Victoria Lion Monroe, senior vice president of the National Journal Group. “It was something that was pretty innovative and National Journal took the lead there.”
National Journal has a total qualified circulation of 15,000, its website gets almost 2 million unique visitors per month and its daily publication has a total qualified circulation of almost 18,000, according to its website. About 15,000 special issues of National Journal are published the Saturday before each convention, which has been the case since 1969.
The convention daily is a tabloid-sized publication created on site with full-scale editorial staffs in both cities. More than 20,000 copies are distributed to hotel room doors, convention complexes, party headquarters and media work spaces. There are a total of 12 issues.
“The intersection of policy and politics is what National Journal covers,” says Lion Monroe. “We literally pick up a huge portion of our newsroom, our technology and events teams and we move them physically into each city for reporting and printing.”
National Journal uses local distributors and printers to get the publications out. The convention dailies also include house advertisements and guides to both Tampa and Charlotte. The publication’s largest supporters signed up early, says Lion Monroe, for premium advertising offerings and the magazine is now working with groups who make last-minute plans.
“It’s a lot of the usual suspects but there are other companies and groups that will partner on events or with digital and print advertising because they get to reach a broader audience,” she says. “About two-thirds of advertisers are those that are long-term and consistent partners and one-third are those that are in a market at a specific time.”
In addition to its daily print and online coverage, National Journal hosts a series of events on site in both cities—from daily morning briefings, nightly watch parties and content-based seminars, all of which include a variety of underwriters from Bank of America and Microsoft to the Society of Human Resource Mangers. In all, there will about 90 pages of advertising in the print publications and over 25 events are underwritten by advertising partners.
“We will be on the doorstep of every hotel we can get access to either within or just beyond the security perimeter,” says Lion Monroe. “We will do about 50 to 60 standalone kiosks for distribution in every convention city in high traffic areas. The hand delivery to everyone’s door is a key part of how we know we’re reaching people, and we know exactly who is getting it and at what hotel and the distribution hits in a timely and effective manner. The fact that we’ve been doing this since 1984 makes us a known entity (at the conventions) so they’re most likely to read it first.”
For the group’s digital products, Lion Monroe adds that National Journal has an extensive list of individuals who have opted in to receive information. National Journal approached its core base of advertisers at the beginning of 2012. As traditional print media has experienced challenges in recent years with print advertising, this type of special interest publication has been minimally affected.
“The conventions are known for being every four years—it’s like Christmas, you know it’s coming. Every four years folks know this is something they want to do in a big or medium way or have a small presence,” she says. “We’ve seen a shift, though people are still committed to it, but we have more people doing different programming online. There’s more of a blended presence where we have people doing print, events and digital whereas in the past we didn’t have the digital offerings and it was much more print. I can’t speak to whether it’s the economy that’s impacted spending, but I think people are much more strategic in how they spend their advertising and marketing dollars—they’re still spending it, but in different ways and in a more integrated fashion.”
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