The technologies may still be pie-in-the-sky, but for the magazine industry, like most others, the buzzword for ’94 is new media. CD-ROM. The digital superhighway. Multimedia" data-categories = "" data-popup = "" data-ads = "Yes" data-company = "[]" data-outstream = "yes" >

MAGAZINES: IN A TIGHT SPOT By MARY HUH

The technologies may still be pie-in-the-sky, but for the magazine industry, like most others, the buzzword for ’94 is new media. CD-ROM. The digital superhighway. Multimedia

‘There are so many (options), we can’t get our arms around them right now,’ says Heinemann. With a corporate parent whose branches extend into virtually every form of media, publishers hope to tap into Time Warner’s futuristic cable system of interactive programming, telephone service and other two-way capabilities. ‘Time Inc. is working with advertisers and Time Warner to find mutual applications,’ notes Heinemann.
For an industry that hasn’t seen a fat year in a long time, looking to the future might seem like the only answer. Overshadowed by the uncertainty about the Clinton administration’s economic plans and a subsequent lag in consumer confidence, 1994 does not promise to break from the dull pattern of recent years. At best, most publishers and agency buyers expect print spending will be slightly up from or flat with ’93. ‘First quarter will be tight and stay tight,’ predicts Roberta Garfinkle, McCann-Erickson’s senior vp/director of print media. ‘Magazine buying will be tighter than ever.’
‘The business today is planned so short-term, it’s impossible to get a long-term view on it,’ says Jack Rehm, president and ceo of Meredith Corp. ‘I don’t think any of us have seen enough information to figure out if the summer slowdown is long-term or short-term.’
From the number of high-level shufflings that took place this year, it seems the time frame for success keeps shrinking. From Hearst to Conde Nast to American Express, editorial and ad-staff changes have garnered lots of attention but few noticeable ad-page hikes. In the coming year, several categories will be watched closely for results – or else.
In women’s fashion and beauty mags, for instance, the competition will continue to be fierce. Harper’s Bazaar, which launched its redesign under Liz Tilberis last September, has fared quite well in ad pages, up 77% through July. Elle brought on board new editorial editor Amy Gross from Mirabella, who gave Elle a redesigned edit package. W is now monthly, downsized and perfect bound.
The most notable change of the last year – Tina Brown’s move from Vanity Fair to The New Yorker – has yielded mostly positive numbers. While both magazines have notched circulation increases (The New York up 21% to 758,910; Vanity Fair up 7% to 1.08 million), only The New Yorker is up in ad pages – 16.7%, to 1,054 ad pages, through July. Vanity Fair – down 17.1% in pages – switched publishers in May, replacing longtime honcho Ron Galotti with Allure’s Kathy Neisloss Leventhal.
Also at Conde Nast, the effort to grasp the ubiquitous generation X is seeing mixed results. Mademoiselle, which relaunched last March under editor-in-chief Gabe Doppelt and refocused itself on that market, has lost ad pages while circ remains static. The magazine has received kudos, though, for making itself more distinct from Glamour.
A readier audience for advertisers is the child-rearing generation of baby boomers, as shown by the continued strength of parenting magazines and launches of family-related titles. This year, Straight Arrow introduced Family Life magazine to compete with Disney Publishing’s Family Fun and others. Similar titles are on the way, although McCann’s Garfinkle predicts a shakeout in the coming year. Even though there are more books, she notes, ‘I’m not hearing about more money in that category.’
Yet another demographic – teens – will have several new magazines to flip through. Welsh Publishing’s Quake, a joint venture between NBC and Hachette Filipacchi called Tell and a Time Inc. product tentatively named Mouth to Mouth will enter the fray. ‘Advertisers are realizing this is a generation that has a tremendous amount of influence and brand loyalty,’ says Hachette ceo David Pecker.
With significant ad increase unlikely in ’94, other income streams will have to be tapped. Many titles will mount circulation-building campaigns; others will turn to data-base marketing, as they find new ways to tailor their subscriber lists to outside companies’ interests.
‘Everybody’s data base is just as good as their subscriber base. To make it viable, a lot of things have to come together,’ says Time Inc.’s Heinemann, who notes that the magazine data base is now ‘married to the Time Warner data base.’ And Conde Nast just announced its 11-million name data base developed in conjunction with Metro Mail, a division of R.R. Donnelley.
But publishers have to be careful not to slice and dice their readerships too coarsely. ‘The problem is if you want to sell subsets of the audience,’ says magazine consultant Martin S. Walker. ‘Will anybody want to buy the whole audience?’
That’s a good question, considering how readily advertisers are embracing the new ways of doing business. ‘Less and less, advertisers are using old ways of using magazine space in magazines,’ says Lou Schultz, executive vp/director of media services for Lintas: USA. ‘There’s more use of select binding, ink-jet printing. There’s more money devoted to tailor-based programs rather than traditional magazine spending.’
One example is custom publishing – those new magazines cropping up that are supervised and directed by advertisers, who typically act as sole sponsors. They flourished in ’93 and are sure to be even more noticeable in ’94. ‘Custom publishing is going to be a force in the next couple years,’ says Garfinkle.
Hachette is leading the way, publishing Sony Style, General Motors’ Know How and NBC’s Tell magazine for teens. More are on the drawing boards. The company has ‘$25 million worth of proposals out there,’ according to Hachette’s Pecker. ‘There are opportunities there,’ assures Schultz, who points to whole segments, such as packaged goods, that haven’t tried it yet.
Publishers are also scrambling to expand their core franchises, turning in some cases to the lure of TV. From Elle TV and Woman’s Day to Martha Stewart and Reader’s Digest, magazines are hoping to find the right formula this time around. ‘Most of the (Time) magazines have some TV project in the works,’ says Heinemann, citing Money, People and Entertainment Weekly.
The downside to all these efforts: Advertisers now routinely expect deals and packages to be offered. ‘Rate negotiations are here to stay, and not only for rates but for merchandising and added value,’ says Garfinkle. ‘Magazines’ share of market depends on how creative they get in merchandising and added value. The best piece of advice I can offer the magazines is you’ve got to start looking for talent who have good merchandising or promotion ideas, or you’ll get left in the dust and lose pages.’
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)