LA Parent Publisher: “Why I Gambled on Print”
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In late 2012, I purchased a small, local publishing company. The marquee property was a magazine called L.A. Parent that distributed approximately 70,000 free copies every month, along with other print and digital products. Pickup rate was okay for L.A. Parent, but the magazine had really fallen off in 2010 and 2011 due to poor distribution and high employee turnover.
My purchase raised eyebrows among colleagues in the publishing community-not to mention my family. And who could blame them? This was a 33-year-old product that, even though the brand was strong, most felt was past its prime. Worse yet was that there was a ton of competition in the parenting space.
Here's the thing, though: L.A. Parent had long been distributed in places like preschools, elementary schools, after-school programs, tutoring centers, gymnastic classes, and anywhere else you find parents.
In the years leading up to our purchase, distribution had been cut back, ad revenue and page count had fallen, and the content was only so-so. But the model was still solid. It just needed better management. Parents waiting for their kids are a captive audience, even with the draw of smart phones.
So we went back to the roots of L.A. Parent and examined where and how it was, and should be, distributed. We made sure there was the right number of copies at each location and that they were appropriately displayed. I didn't want them stacked outside. I wanted them nicely arranged inside.
My wife and I called local businesses and introduced ourselves as the new owners. We visited clients and we partnered with community events, trading ads for additional distribution. We did our best to get the magazine in every corner of the city.
It worked. Advertisers returned, and new ones found us. I hired new sales reps. Our editor was energized and had more pages to fill. We found better writers. We invested in our website and other digital products, of course, and made sure that everything we did was the best in the market. But it was clear that print was driving our business.
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