Media Buyer-Turned-Publisher Talks Luxury Titles
After nearly two decades of association with the travel, financial services and luxury retail industries, Alison Chittum Miller recently switched her career gears and became co-publisher of Greenspun Media Group’s Las Vegas-based luxury titles: VEGAS Magazine, Wynn and Venetian Style.
Miller expects to bring valuable experience from outside the industry to her new role. She most recently helped create Stratus Rewards Club 360, the country’s first credit card and loyalty program to offer rewards such as private jet travel and stays in private homes and villas.
Publishing Executive Inbox spoke with her about her new role with Greenspun Media Group, where she will oversee all ad sales, supervise promotions and manage distribution activities.
INBOX: What type of innovative thinking do you believe someone from outside traditional magazine publishing circles, such as yourself, can add to the magazine industry?
ALISON CHITTUM MILLER: As a former media buyer, I bring a client perspective and a deep appreciation for the substantial value publishers provide above and beyond the obvious printed page. The available assets on hand are tremendous, especially for a company with the broad reach represented by the Greenspun Media Group. The competitive advantages gained by advertisers who recognize and leverage these assets can be considerable, and I will play a key role in helping clients identify those channels which can best provide momentum for their various goals and initiatives.
INBOX: What does the print magazine industry still offer audiences and advertisers that other forms of communication cannot? From a sales perspective, how can you take advantage of that when approaching potential clients?
MILLER: The print magazine industry provides access to a highly defined and targeted customer base, especially amongst luxury publications like ours. People self select what they read in their leisure time pursuits, and that results in a higher level of reader involvement, not to mention relevant segmenting opportunities for advertisers. Globe trotters read about travel, car enthusiasts seek out auto magazines; it’s as targeted as it gets. The sheer tactile nature of the book ensures that advertisers will be viewed multiple times, and in a manner unlike e-channels, where images or e-mails are viewed once and then lost or deleted amongst a flurry of other traffic. Magazines are not discarded as easily and are, in a sense, interruptive. They sit on a table or night stand and remind the reader to pick the issue up again and again, each time enjoying the relevant content and high resolution images provided only in this format. Magazines are also a wholly separate experiential enterprise. Computers are not only used for leisure endeavors, but also closely associated with work tasks. While this makes them accessible, a magazine allows an escape from this digital connection to all of one’s responsibilities, and creates a respite from an over-crowded life. This tactile escapism plays well with the leisure/luxury market, whose occupants often lead time-compressed lives, yet have the means to avail themselves of escapes from these busy schedules.
INBOX: What are some proven ways of attracting a more influential clientele that you’ve picked up in other forms of business that magazine publishers could take a look at replicating?
MILLER: Whether you are considering readers or advertisers, the luxury industry demands access beyond all else. Regardless of how worldly or knowledgeable your readership base is, they still want to be educated in all areas relevant to their own particular lifestyle. Luxury titles like VEGAS Magazine provide this type of content-rich information in a private venue, providing readers the opportunity to quickly become experts on the hottest trends, venues and people. If you can extend this access beyond the printed page and into an in-person forum, then the magic really begins to happen. I experienced this when I built the Stratus Rewards Club 360 program. Each month we invited members to come together at various events in key cities. The members soon began engaging with each other and built a new community with access to like-minded people.
Luxury advertisers essentially want the same thing. They want access to customers who are aligned with their demographic, or to other non-competing advertisers who have similar installed client bases. As publishers, we have tremendous weight and opportunity to bring these strategic alliances to fruition through networking, exclusive events, and an unlimited number of partnership opportunities. The wealth segment is particularly difficult to reach. By marrying various providers within that niche together, such as a luxury auto manufacturer with a high-end jeweler, both advertisers can enjoy access to each other’s relevant consumers, without in any way competing.
INBOX: What are some ways magazines can boost ad sales and improve impact or response through producing better marketing and promotions to accompany the editorial product? What level of importance should be placed on that side of the business in attracting advertisers?
MILLER: In the case of prestige magazines such as ours, integrity in advertising is one primary key to boosting sales. The products advertised or represented in the magazine must be synergistic with the editorial focus of the magazine and at all times be relevant to the readers. In a sense, we protect the credibility of our luxury advertisers by limiting advertising opportunities only to elite brands which meet our luxe standards. By ensuring an environment that reflects well on all brands featured in the book, advertisers have a greater degree of confidence that they will be well represented, and of course, are willing to pay a premium for that kind of brand protection. It’s the infamous quality or quantity argument. In a recent cross-media study by research company Dynamic Logic, magazines out performed both TV and online channels when it came to brand favorability and purchase intent. When advertising and edit are aligned, it works even better.
INBOX: Do you employ digital content and digital distribution to those accustomed to affluent lifestyles differently than you would to most general audiences? How does a Las Vegas readership differ than what you would see elsewhere?
MILLER: According to the Publishers Information Bureau, magazine revenues are up 5.6 percent in the first three quarters of 2007. It’s clear the hysteria over the death of the printed page is just that—hysteria. Having said that, we remain a strong proponent of a highly integrated, multi-channel approach. Greenspun Media represents a group of broad media outlets, including television, newspapers and internet resources. In as such, we have held a cross-media strategy for some time, providing advertisers with a holistic approach to reaching their client base. In 2008, we will invest millions more in a new internet portal that will bring dynamic and interactive content to our clients. As is true in any channel, the content must be relevant, timely and consumer driven. As importantly, it must be customized and personalized for the various segments of our market. It’s one of the reasons that we are investing heavily in a new CRM system as well. Live local soccer game scores updated to a Summerlin parent’s mobile phone is a fantastic benefit for them, but most likely not of interest to the single loft dwelling bachelor who lives on the strip. Las Vegans swing across a wide pendulum of full- and part-time residents representing almost every lifestyle imaginable. We invest deeply in the community here, and reach each of those populations very differently. The digital channel helps supports that effort.
Some argue that the main threat to the publishing world by the invasion of digital content is more focused against dailies rather than luxe publications. Dailies provide, for the most part, the somewhat cold factual content we all need to stay informed about our ever-changing world. Luxe publications, however, offer more than just factual content. We offer escapes and/or vacations from the business and global world by presenting tactile experiences which release our client base from the dull glow of the computer screen.