Dwell Offers Shelter for Other Indie Titles

As hard as the recession has been for consumer magazines, it’s especially scary for independents.

Even in the best of times, they have neither selling clout with advertisers or buying power with vendors‹issues that become bigger setbacks when marketers are looking for efficiency buys across multiple titles and raw material costs are rising.

Now, award-winning shelter magazine Dwell is offering a potential lifeline in the form of business partnerships with others like it. Dwell already handles the back-office work for Afar, a just-launched travel title. Now it’s taken on U.S. sales and marketing duties for Trends, a New Zealand-based publisher of home design and remodeling titles including Kitchen Trends and Bathroom Trends.

Michela O’Connor Abrams, Dwell president, publisher, said the title is identifying potential partners through distributor Time/Warner Retail Sales & Marketing and its printer and paper supplier. “The motivation is about this continued ridiculous increase in the cost of goods,” she said. “I just really want other independents to not only survive, but thrive.”

Other small publishers are finding ways to work together in the recession.Mansueto Ventures’ Fast Company has begun swapping circulation-promotion ads with other titles including the Financial Times and Paper. Christine Osekoski, Fast Co.’s publisher, said the barter ads enable brands like hers without big companies behind them to help each other out.

Abrams noted that Dwell benefits from its partnerships by lowering its costs and learning best practices. “It will give us more power not just in pricing but also to be able to access the capabilities of the partners,” she said. It wasn’t long ago that Dwell, launched in 2000, faced the difficulty of being a startup. “If there had been an Afar when we started, it would’ve been a lot easier for us,” said Abrams, who joined in ’02. “We didn’t have any bargaining power, depth of knowledge  [or] understanding of research we needed.”

Since then, Dwell has expanded to include a home furnishings show and line of Dwell-branded homes, extensions that help offset the ad-page softness from the housing market collapse. Ad pages are down 45 percent to 525 this year through October, per the Mediaweek Monitor. Its newest additions are special-interest, newsstand-only pubs that publish twice annually and carry a $10 cover price.

The first, on stands now, is buyer guide Make It Yours. Dwell Outdoors will follow in spring 2010.