One Small Step For Publishers, One Giant Leap For Advertising
Like a Hallmark card, there's practically a magazine for every occasion. Still, magazine publishing both suffers and succeeds based on booms in other forms of communication, such as television, the Internet and mass-marketed advertising. Never before in publishing history have so many magazines focused on niches that include gender, race and age. After a relatively rough year, characterized by advertising losses and employee cut-backs (see www.writenews.com's ever-growing "Deadzone"), emerging magazine publishers have increased reason to better marry advertisers with audience. Such is the case with Conde Nast's latest, Lucky, a magazine about shopping and a gold mine for advertisers intent on reaching consumption junkies.
Amid the turbulence, BPA International reports an increase in registered titles throughout the last decade. In 1988, approximately 100 magazines were registered, whereas in 2000, nearly 500 were listed. Moreover, the National Directory of Magazines estimated nearly 19,000 magazines were published in the year ending 2000, as opposed to 13,541 in 1990.
But with an irreverence to tradition that would make even Talk's Tina Brown blush, some industry naysayers continue to tout the end of print, though numbers are moderately showing that print publishing is surviving the 21st century's infancy with its nails dug deep into paper—even if mass media and the Internet are giving old-fashioned publishing plenty of non-traditional competition.
Nina Link, Magazine Publishers of America (MPA) president, conversely admits that with market waxing and waning comes the opportunity for more creative print publishing. She says, "With recent layoffs and mergers in the publishing and related industries, there are a lot of very talented professionals out there right now."
Reading between the lines
According to MPA's FCB Media Research Report, traditional reading practices are presently rated 40 percent higher than average television statistics. Despite shifts in educational interests and increases in overall computer usage, the MPA similarly reports that traditional reading (i.e., books, magazines and newspapers) has grown steadily over the past 10 years compared to other forms of electronic media, including e-books and Web surfing patterns.
The difference is that today, Millward Brown reports, advertisers and agencies are demanding greater measures of return on investments, thus challenging media to provide quantifiable evidence that campaigns are working. Millward Brown's report also suggests, "Magazines deliver, on a dollar-for-dollar basis, almost three times as much advertising awareness as television."
Samir Husni, a well-known magazine industry analyst, says, "There were 874 magazines published in 2000." As a Hederman Lecturer and professor of journalism at the University of Mississippi, Husni contends that in the consumer category, magazine launches average about 75 per month. His book, Samir Husni's Guide to New Consumer Magazines 2001, provides new annual listings in the industry. Now in its 16th year, the guide also catalogs hundreds of new launches as related to the new economy and demand. Husni's Launch Your Own Magazine: A Guide to Succeeding in Today's Marketplace, comparatively reveals more of the creative conundrum jeopardizing newcomers. He explains, "You are dealing with a creative production, but there are ways to reduce your chances of floundering by showing how people who do the job have done it. If you don't have the money, you don't have the publication. Lack of cash flow will kill a magazine."
Outside looking in
What people are reading is also critical in understanding how a new magazine will fit demand or fall flat. Whereas there has been a steady cache of celebrity-driven newbies like Gotham, hot! and Smock, other magazines, such as Clamor, winner of the Utne Reader Alternative Press Award for Best New Magazine, focus content and ad bucks on the politics of ordinary people.
According to MPA's 2000 statistics, more than 30,830,281,545 new pages are dedicated to culture and humanities on a yearly basis, followed by entertainment and celebrity subjects. Last year, MPA says 24 regional magazines, 24 adult magazines and 20 business and finance publications were launched. Interestingly, niche publishing also showed an increase with more start-ups designed for ethnic and sexually diverse demographics, especially among the African-American community, with Savoy and Honey. Accordingly, within the last year, more than 400 ethnic magazines were launched in total, equaling the number of lifestyle publications. Also debuting were gay and lesbian magazines, such as Empire, a New York-based publication courting gay men, and Joey, a magazine designed for teenage boys.
Joey Publisher Jerry Dunn says that while the print magazine is on break for now, there are plans in the future to bring it back. "We created such a following with the print magazine and filled a major gap in the media. We didn't want to lose our audience, so we created Joey.com. This will allow us to maintain our hold in the marketplace—and our pre-launch numbers show our popularity."
The trend in niche publishing continues to welcome newcomers, To reduce outsourcing time and financial risk, the majority of start-ups choose to implement digital workflows and utilize in-house copiers, scanners and proofers Alice, a magazine launched in 2000, is operated independently by Medusa Press. Diane Anderson-Mitchell, Alice's advertising manager, says that Alice prefers ads be submitted electronically using QuarkXPress, Illustrator or PhotoShop applications. She also admits that to persuade advertisers to comply, $50 production fees are charged for camera-ready work. This practice is not uncommon for start-ups, as advertising bases have yet to be established. The benefit of starting anew, from a production perspective, is not having to hand-hold reluctant traditionalists through digital conversion.
Conversely, other magazines were born on the heels of mass-media exposure. Oprah Winfrey's O, Rosie O'Donnell's Rosie and Martha Stewart's series of periodicals are each TV maven-made magazines that have succeeded as spin-offs from already popular shows. In fact, the print success brings with it online site hits that sometimes soar based on name recognition alone.
Notes Annalyn Swan, Rosie's editor-at-large, "We are thrilled that rosiemagazine.com has taken off so quickly. It's a testament to the fact that the Web site is all encompassing. The site can be seen as perfectly complimentary to the magazine."
This year, one of the industry's most successful multimedia players was Maxim, a men's magazine honored by Capell's Circulation Report as Best Performer for 2000. Designed to showcase women, entertainment and beer, the irreverent magazine became an anomaly during 2001's most turbulent publishing period, coming out ahead. Having launched two years ago, Maxim has increased its circulation from 175,000 to 3,330,000, with one million subscribers overall. Also, it has expanded its powers into a radio station, live-action events with simultaneous Web casts and several other publications under the Dennis Publishing brand name, including Stuff and Blender. With a rate increase for the second half of this year already building, Maxim General Manager Lance Ford remarks, "Ad pages have soared because advertisers realize that Maxim offers something which has not been available before—a true mass circulation title read from cover to cover by highly affluent young men."
Stephen Colvin, president of Dennis Publishing, boasts, "I'm gob-smacked! Despite intense competition, just 30 issues from launch, Maxim continues to outperform all rivals in circulation growth while maintaining readership boasting the highest average household income in the category." In other words, it's heaven sent for upscale advertisers—online and in print. Maxim primarily competes with Details, a long-time men's magazine that recently was relaunched with a new format designed to woo back fickle readers.
Technology has been an equally potent topic in spite of dot-com demise. For example, Handheld Computing and Red Herring have beefed up circulation, the former focusing on Palm OS culture and the latter, a business publication, moving from monthly to bi-weekly distribution in less than four months.
According to Fran Fox, manufacturing director of Red Herring, "To accommodate bi-weekly production, we completely revamped our internal workflow—from story pitch through printer delivery. In so doing, we created an efficient 'Express-to-Press' [workflow] that further shortened our production cycle and, at the same time, virtually eliminated the need for overtime and weekend production."
The flip side
While many niche launches have boomed, other specialty publications failed to deliver. EGO, designed to honor young urban professionals, folded less than a year ago with hopes, says Editor and Publisher Greg Guess, of relaunching again. The irony is that while EGO was designed and marketed for upper-class twenty and thirty somethings, production budgets for luxurious shoots, outsourced prepress and staff proved too much for this Freudian-spun magazine.
MPA's Link says that despite the turbulence of the industry, her goals are to continue getting publishers on the same page when it comes to postal distribution—a war she's been waging in Washington to prevent postal increases from shrinking already tight budgets—as well as, advertising demands, technological upgrades and social trends.
Similarly, at this year's American Magazine Conference 2001, President and Editor-in-Chief of Time Out New York, Cyndi Stivers, anticipates, Keeping in mind that the financial markets are cyclical, AMC 2001 will help our magazines weather the downturn and strategically prepare them for the next upswing."
-Natalie Hope McDonald