Entrepreneurial Local Mags Share Best Revenue-Driving Ideas at CRMA
Yesterday I wrote about the developing style of corporate risk taking place at Hearst, let's call it tower entrepreneurism, envisioned and shared by Dave Carey. Today I want to suggest another great and often missed sector/movement in successful publishing. That is the city and regional titles. It is my pleasure to speak every few years to the City and Regional Magazine Association (CRMA). They are a feisty group of owner/operators leaping beyond traditional publishing platforms and creating as many new revenue streams as there are pages in a cross-country Fodor's travel book. Let's call the CRMA cottage entrepreneurism as opposed to tower entrepreneurism. Each is a powerful edifice.
Each time I go a CRMA event the air is charged with excitement, brothers and sisters sitting in a conference room sharing new ideas and divergent internal employee motivational strategies. Every time I go I remember how much I love being there. If my career had taken another course, there is no doubt I would have been a member having started several local publications in my early career. Perhaps that is why I feel so comfortable among them. That, and the fact that CRMA members are consummate, never-say-die, scrappy entrepreneurs.
The members of CRMA hold what they call the Round Table of Best Ideas, where they each present a great idea that is bringing in new revenue streams. They are not competing with each other, so they are completely open to the cross-pollination of ideas. There are some ideas that seem to me too proprietary, so I won't divulge them here without permission. But many of the ideas are just good ideas we can all learn from, and I know many titles are already trying.
There are many Wine and Food Festivals in the U.S., and they are growing in attendance and revenue each year. Publishers can learn a thing or two from the success of these types of events.
One of the ideas I liked, even though it never occurred to me as a local publisher, was to hire an ice cream truck and drive around to meet the local advertisers and give away free frozen treats. The publisher and sales team tagged along so it was a congenial, if you will pardon the expression, ice-breaking event -- great for long-term relationship building.
One of the magazines created a Festival of the Arts. Selling exhibit space, VIP lounges, and other typical event sponsorship packages.
Another magazine has developed specialty local travel and regional visiting apps that work for their local area and any other locations as well. The app was built in-house and can be sold to magazines in other regions.
One local magazine has a cutest baby contest. There is a cost to enter and for an extra charge they are happy to create for you a print of your cutest baby on a mock cover of the regional title.
Another title has a whiskey festival, which is of course a variation of the wine festivals sprouting up throughout the country. Local fermentation ferments a myriad of ideas.
Many magazines are acting as agencies on a local level to create a web and social presence of local retailers who might not otherwise have the wherewithal. There are also custom sponsorship programs of many sorts -- local buyers guides, local brewer and distiller guides, local home and garden guides, and many more.
I could go on but you get the idea. Publishing is alive and well and thriving at the local level and, like the tower entrepreneurs, they are not averse to risk in this changing environment.
Yesterday I reported David Carey's advice to C-level publishers that they should embrace the business model of risk, reject common business orthodoxies, and do their best to leverage partnerships. Those three things are exactly what the members of CRMA strive to do, and from where I sit they are doing it well.
Related story: 6 Trends Affecting City & Regional Magazine Publishing
Bob Sacks (aka BoSacks) is a printing/publishing industry consultant and president of The Precision Media Group (BoSacks.com). He is also the co-founder of the research company Media-Ideas (Media-Ideas.net), and publisher and editor of a daily international e-newsletter, Heard on the Web. Sacks has held posts as director of manufacturing and distribution, senior sales manager (paper), chief of operations, pressman, circulator and almost every other job this industry has to offer.