Nina Link is stepping down after 13 years as president-CEO of the MPA, the chief trade group for magazines, when her contract concludes at the end of the year. The association has hired the executive recruiting firm Blinkhorn to identify a successor.
Ms. Link said she was thinking about doing other things and feeling good about the state of the association as the considered the approaching end of her contract. "I said I think it's time for me to step down," she said.
The magazine industry has endured significant disruptions since Ms. Link was named to lead its trade group in 1999, starting with the dot-com bust and recession of the early 2000s. And its long-term challenges are continuing. Ad pages, which still provide the vast majority of magazine revenue, have fallen a third since 2007, according to the Publishers Information Bureau.
The MPA has responded with campaigns promoting the industry to readers and advertisers, member events focused on taking advantage of digital media, and efforts to change the way magazines are bought and evaluated by advertisers. It changed its name in 2010 from Magazine Publishers of America to MPA -- the Association of Magazine Media -- to emphasize its members' work beyond the printed page. Most recently it led a push to develop voluntary standard metrics for publishers' tablet editions. It is also an active lobbyist in Washington, where it tries to fight rising postal costs.
"When I came into the job, I would never have taken it if it was just a placeholder," Ms. Link said. "I came in because I believed there was going to be enormous change."
The recession and challenges facing publishers have almost halved the association's revenue from participating publishers in recent years. Membership dues plunged from $10 million in 2008 to $6.9 million in 2009, then declined to $5.4 million in 2010, according to IRS filings. But the association held on to almost every member, later persuading dropouts such as New York magazine and American Media to return.
The association is also striving to restore revenue from events and professional development programs. That revenue plunged from $1.9 million in 2008 to $916,600 in 2009, but rose again to $1.4 million in 2010.
Agencies and marketers have sometimes wished the MPA requested and incorporated their input more often. "They work for the publishers and that 's apparent," said Robin Steinberg, exec VP and director of publishing investment and activation at MediaVest. "While we don't pay them, we'd like to be collaborative in this paradigm shift."
"It's time the industry bands together to fix the problem," Ms. Steinberg added. "We don't have an audience problem, we have an advertising problem."
Publishing executives said Ms. Link had done very good work in tough times. "She steered the organization successfully through a very difficult period for magazines," said Jack Griffin, the former president of Meredith Corp.'s magazine division, in an email Thursday. "Further, she led many efforts to help the industry reinvent and deal with challenging issues in Washington. She is a great leader and will be missed."