Cover Story: Building A Sustainable Future
Lying behind the improved numbers were cost management, including some "painful" staff cuts, a rise in newsstand sales and an improved advertising climate, which Marcom says is critical in the U.S. compared to the British magazine market. In Britain, he says, newsstand sales have always made up a larger percentage of revenues, and people expect to pay more for subscriptions.
The ability to boost U.S. subscription rates is "pretty limited these days," Marcom says, though he notes Future's traditional bundling of electronic media (CDs, instructional DVDs, etc.) for enhanced editions of enthusiast magazines such as Guitar World give it more flexibility than some.
Marcom says Future also has taken significant steps to tighten up its wholesale distribution channels, becoming much more efficient in matching magazine newsstand placement to actual demand. "We've spent a lot of time looking at how some of our titles do better in certain retail channels. [For instance], tech magazines sell better in airports, where the business travelers are. A lot of [traditional] distributing mapping did not take that into account," he says.
The company also has cut its number of special issues, which Marcom admits, "we were probably overdoing a bit" in 2008 and 2009. Much of the improvements, he says, are simply about "putting the right amount of products out in the market."
Like all publishers targeting gamers, Marcom says Future is feeling the pressure of changes in that market. "That's become much more of a mega-hit, sequel-driven business … so the [games companies] have gone much more mass in their marketing," utilizing billboards and TV spots rather than print ads for big releases such as last fall's "Call of Duty: Black Ops."
"On the other hand," he says, "there's a lot of digital opportunities."
Cooking Up an App