Glossy Anglers Journal Proves the Power of Niche
This interview is a part of a larger feature documenting some of the most exciting magazine launches and relaunches of the past two years. Click here to view more interviews with publishers of newly launched or relaunched titles.
With five separate verticals that represent everything from healthy living and outdoor sports to home building and the equine lifestyle, Active Interest Media cranks out dozens of consumer magazines monthly for highly specialized niche audiences. And yet the mega-publisher's most recent print launch, the quarterly Anglers Journal, may be its most singularly unique book yet.
As the title suggests, Anglers Journal chronicles the saltwater fishing lifestyle. But with its boutique-style production and its abundance of original photography -- not to mention 100-plus perfect-bound pages of literary musings by noted journalists -- this is clearly a magazine that's been designed for prime coffee table real estate.
Group publisher Gary DeSanctis spoke about the roadmap that helped Anglers Journal break-even after releasing just two issues.
How exactly did Anglers Journal come about?
Well, we acquired Power & Motoryacht from Source Interlink about three years ago, and they also had a fishing tournament guide that really wasn't up to the quality of anything we like to do in this group. So we immediately shelved it. We wanted Power & Motoryacht to stay focused solely on the boat experience and not fishing.
In the meantime, two of the editors in the group had a vision. George Sass Jr. is the editorial director of AIM's Marine Group, and he'd had a vision for quite some time to bring a new book into the marketplace. Bill Sisson, the magazine's editor, also had a yearning to do something in the fishing space. And once the two of them started talking, the whole plan started developing.
What was the general idea behind the plan?
Basically, that the world does not need another fishing magazine. There are some very good ones out there, and we didn't want to do a "me too." What we wanted to do was something that was completely different from what anybody else was doing.
The philosophy here at AIM is that the print experience has to be an exceptional experience. (We don't believe print is dead, by the way.) So the vision was to put a product out that was almost a bespoke product: A magazine that talked to the experienced angler, but not about the process of how to fish. These guys know how to fish. They've been fishing their whole lives. What we're going to do instead is to share their experiential situations with each other. So the book is very much about educating on some level, but educating deeply on another. It'll have in-depth stories about grandpa fishing with son and grandson, and how that came about.
Was it tough to get the top brass on board?
Well, when we first sat down with [AIM's CEO and COO], they were a little reluctant. But once we really explained what we wanted to do, they were completely on board. And that sounds really simple, but at AIM, their philosophy is to allow people to run their businesses and do their jobs. There's nobody here saying, "No." But they do say, "Go, run with it. If you have the passion and the commitment, and you think it can work, go for it."
Was the launch more challenging than some of your other titles?
I think the most difficult thing for us was sticking to our guns. We had a plan on how to monetize it, obviously. And yet when we weren't as successful with the first issue as I wanted to be, it would have been very easy to cut circulation, and cut the paper quality or not use original photography. So we had to be disciplined to say, 'We're going to put out the product we envisioned, no matter what.' We wouldn't put out an inferior product and then hope we could grow it into the product we knew it could be. So I think a lesson learned is that if you have the vision, stick with it.
How are you selling Anglers Journal?
We're newsstand distributed, primarily at outdoor shops and airports. And that's [borrowing] from the model of one of our other publications. And then we have a qualified controlled circulation of 15,000 copies going to readers of our other publications who, in the past, have answered a questionnaire that they are avid fisherman. And we're already turning a lot of those people into subscribers -- it's amazing.
Do you think the magazine has received such a positive response because it fills a really specific niche?
Well, I would say it's because of its uniqueness in the marketplace. And when you're trying to reach someone who's buying a $30 million boat as a toy, how else are you going to reach him but with his passion? You're not going to do it on the tablet, necessarily. You're going to do it through a beautiful print product -- it's what they love. They'll have it on their boat. They'll have it in their office. And yeah, I do believe that's why it's been successful.
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Dan Eldridge is a journalist and guidebook author based in Philadelphia's historic Old City district, where he and his partner own and operate Kaya Aerial Yoga, the city's only aerial yoga studio. A longtime cultural reporter, Eldridge also writes about small business and entrepreneurship, travel, and the publishing industry. Follow him on Twitter at @YoungPioneers.