Their Print Ad Revenue Is Growing. Want to Know Why?
With the publishing industry changing on what seems like a daily basis, how is it that some publications are actually finding ways to increase their print advertising revenue in the past two years? Publishing Executive went behind the scenes with four publishers who have done just that to find out what they’re doing “right.”
Steve Reiss, vice president and publishing director of Modern Salon, came on board in 2009. Since then, the property has seen excellent growth, with double-digit ad revenue increases in both 2010 and 2011, according to Inquiry Management Systems (IMS) ad-tracking reports. As the head of a business-to-business (b-to-b) publication serving the salon and beauty industry, Reiss had the challenge of really immersing himself in the industry he serves and demonstrating that he “gets it,” and “gets them.” “I came into a family-owned business … with an idea for a holistic approach and a big picture,” says Reiss. “All of the work that was set in place that [first] year has paid off in 2010 and 2011.”
When Reiss says holistic, he means it. As a b-to-b publication, the most important aspect was to truly understand the salon business from the ground up. This meant getting heavily involved in industry associations and events, and spending considerable time with both advertisers and readers. “We had one of our editors enroll in beauty school,” recounts Reiss. “She made it all the way through and graduated, which brought a whole new perspective to our editorial.” Reiss believes that taking the time to really understand audiences—and adapting products and services to their needs and behaviors, instead of trying to sell what they had—has helped customers and readers view them as a “friend in the business.”
In addition to taking greater advantage of advertiser interest in digital products, this approach has dramatically increased Modern Salon’s print business, Reiss says. “Companies who weren’t working with us in the past may start working with us on digital projects, but eventually start running print with us as well as we work closely with them, develop relationships, and have a chance to showcase our capabilities,” he says. “The same is true for companies who only want to reach specific segments. They may start with us since we are the only people offering that specific segment, but as they decide to reach other audiences they expand the relationship to our other brands.”
Modern Salon is aimed at all segments of the market, from people considering a career in beauty, to the beauty school student, to the established salon professional to the business owner, with print and online communities such as Beauty School Advisor, First Chair, Modern Salon and Salon Today. By offering a “one-stop solution” across these brands, Reiss says customers have the opportunity to expand their reach as far as they desire.
The strategy has borne fruit: Print share of market for Modern Salon has increased almost 4 percent over the last two years, Reiss says, and over that time the publication has generated over 400 additional ad pages.
“The salon industry is not like most other businesses,” says Reiss. “It has a culture all its own, and is filled with creative people who learn and take in information in a variety of ways.” For this reason, Modern Salon uses many platforms beyond just the magazines, including online education, a YouTube video channel, social media, and online and face-to-face opportunities to bring people in the industry together. “We enjoy our role as facilitators within the industry, and it’s led to considerable success.”
Power and Motoryacht
Cindy Sailor, associate publisher of Power and Motoryacht (PMY), understands what it’s like for a harsh economy to hit an industry. “The economic recession hit the luxury yacht market in a very deep and dramatic way,” she explains. “Many of our advertisers went dark virtually overnight.” Since just waiting for the economic climate to change didn’t seem like a workable plan, PMY unveiled a major publication redesign last November, which has been well-received by its market and has improved the magazine’s perception. “Our parent company, Source Interlink, has made strategic investments in marketing, digital, mobile and emerging-market resources, all of which have been critical in our recovery.”
PMY saw a 24.8-percent jump in print revenue, and a 24.9-percent increase in ad pages, from 2010 to 2011, according to MPA’s Publishers Information Bureau.
So, what steps has PMY made down the road to recovery? Sailor sees PMY as a product book for the yacht market, rather than a magazine, so the approach is to be more thorough, covering the entire market. “Our most recent strategy involves ensuring we cover all size categories of boats 30-foot and above in every issue,” Sailor says. “So no matter what type or size of boat the consumer is considering, PMY has covered the most recent products pertinent to that category.”
Custom tailoring advertising programs to each individual client also seems to be working for Sailor and company. She says that she has definitely experienced resistance from marketers about buying print. “Marketing budgets are slim to non-existent, and everyone is trying to figure out a way to impact buyers without having to spend money in print,” she explains. “Let’s face it—it is the least tangible way to track ROI. What we are offering are fully integrated packages that include print, digital, research, events—whatever the client needs.”
By offering integrated packages, Sailor says PMY can make a strong case for print. “[W]e are going back to the fundamentals of advertising to paint a picture for how print has to be the foundation of a brand-building and/or lead-generation campaign,” she says. “We show actual examples of Google analytics searches to the PMY website by boat manufacturer brand and demonstrate how print frequency creates the buzz that drives those people to the website and other digital media programs.
“I think many marketers these days want to find the latest silver bullet to accomplish all of their marketing initiatives at the lowest cost, and it’s our job to give them reasons why print is that solution.”
Core to Sailor’s strategy remains listening to clients. “Listening and being receptive to clients’ needs will always be a win-win situation,” she says.
Departures, the American Express Publishing luxury lifestyle and travel magazine, is up 22 percent in ad revenue for the first quarter of 2012 compared to the first quarter in 2011. This double-digit increase follows a 45-percent increase in ad revenue for all of 2011, according to Steve DeLuca, vice president and publisher. DeLuca attributes much of his magazine’s success to a qualified readership and circulation. “Departures is an exclusive benefit for American Express Platinum Card and Centurion [best known as ‘the black card’] cardmembers,” says DeLuca. “Departures is not available on newsstands, and our advertising partners love that it is only delivered to the most affluent homes in America. There is no waste for luxury marketers.”
With this qualified audience, Departures has an advantage, but even more pressure to deliver. With a readership of 1.1 million, Editor Richard David Story and his team have taken advantage of the ability to focus their editorial content on the lifestyle of their readers, because they know who their readers are and what they do. DeLuca believes in a relationship with readers and clients. “Our editors ‘talk’ with our readers, not down to them,” he explains. “It’s like a club. One of our popular pages is the ‘You Tell Us’ page, where readers share what they have discovered in terms of new products or during their travels. This is an important page that reflects the voice of the magazine.”
In terms of clients, DeLuca believes that they each require a different approach, but he is finding that unlike many advertisers, his clientele isn’t shying away from print. “We approach each client differently and focus on what each is trying to achieve,” he explains. “Very few of our clients say they don’t want to be in print; rather, they just want to learn how to use it more effectively and, if possible, layer digital into this conversation. The fact of the matter is we all need to work together. And a real differentiator for us is results. Clients see tangible ROI (store traffic, purchases, etc.) from the ads and marketing programs we build together. A good example of this is our eExclusive program where readers learn about exclusive product offerings in the magazine and then go to our website to find out how to buy them. This was very successful in 2011.”
So what does DeLuca say isn’t effective? “Well, I hope the presidential candidates are reading this: We have found that negative selling does not work. Clients want us to focus on our benefits, not what’s wrong with someone else,” he says.
“I often get calls from people saying that so many of our so-called competitors ‘trash talk’ us that makes them believe that Departures must be doing something right.”
AARP The Magazine
AARP The Magazine enjoyed revenue growth of 12.9 percent and ad-page growth of 17.6 percent in 2011 compared to the year before, according to Shelagh Miller, vice president of Advertising Media Sales for AARP The Magazine. While proud of this double-digit growth, Miller attributes the success of AARP The Magazine to evolution. No, not the Darwin type so much, but the kind that grows with its readership. “We attribute our growth to our strong selling, strong marketing and strong editorial platforms that speak directly to the distinct life stages of our members,” Miller says. “AARP supports over 35 million members through major milestones and life shifts.”
AARP has the additional responsibility of serving a very specific demographic. “AARP The Magazine is the only lifestyle publication edited for and about [aged] 50-plus Americans,” explains Miller. “The magazine has three editorial versions (50-59, 60-69, and 70+) that speak directly to the mind set and life stage of each demographic. [It] is written for Americans over 50 who are seeking to enhance their quality of life as they age. Strong service journalism, compelling story-telling, first-person essays and celebrity profiles are presented in a warm, vibrant and inviting format that encourages the reader to reflect, engage and enjoy. This editorial approach creates relevance and engagement, and is a core part of our sales strategy.”
To put it into action, AARP The Magazine has never strayed from its audience of boomers and beyond, but now offer targeted advertising via flexible demographic options. “We are providing over 80 ways to reach today’s most powerful consumer segment,” says Miller. “Product selections, creative approach and messaging may be altered to maximize impact. We are offering advertising solutions tailored to our advertisers’ ROI requirements.”
So what is the best strategy to move your ad revenue into the plus column? Know thy customer—both readers and advertisers. If one size ever did fit all, it no longer does, and advertisers require customization, whether that means mixing media or developing a better understanding of the challenge of your client’s individual businesses. PE
Amy Feinstein is a writer from Baltimore, Md., and a regular contributor to Mother Nature Network (MNN.com) and The Discovery Channel’s various websites. She also does technical writing and editing for a number of corporate clients.