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Consumer Magazine Report: Multiple Berths

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Time Inc.'s Parenting Group ventures beyond the mother ship
wo years ago, when John Hartig took over as president and CEO of The Parenting Group, he set about spawning the additional business units he felt were critical to the group's future growth. Two years and a host of deals later, TPG is in 13 lines of business, up from five when Hartig arrived. No longer just a magazine group--although last summer it purchased Family Life as a way of targeting the parents of children past the bedtime-dilemma, daycare-trauma stage--TPG has entered the database, television, hospital sampling, and, soon, e-commerce arenas. "Rather than a print business, we see ourselves more like Martha Stewart [Omnimedia]," Hartig says.
Profits jumped 32 percent last year over the year before, says Hartig, on top of the 46 percent increase a year earlier. With plans to boost the sales staff at Family Life from 14 to 20 under new publisher Laura Kline, Hartig expects another strong increase in 2000. About the only area not soaring at the moment is the flagship, Parenting, which saw 1999 pages drop 0.4 percent, to 1,230, over the prior year, according to PIB. At market leader Parents, pages were up 3.5 percent, to 1,513. Revenue was up in the double digits at both publications. Parenting still lags behind Parents in circ, but is making gains. Parenting was up 12.6 percent to 1.35 million in the second half of 99, while Parents was up 3.7 percent to 1.68 million.
New non-magazine forays for TPG include Parenting.com, an e-commerce site that will launch in June, and database marketing. Joining with Boston-based Marketing Information and Technology, TPG is making its 4.6 million "ParentingBase" database available to advertisers. Meanwhile, in TV, the company is upping the number of 90-second "Parenting News" segments it syndicates to 110 markets to four, from two. "The demand for parenting content on television has been tremendous," says Hartig, who is also producing pilots for longer-form magazine-style shows. These programs, which have not yet signed with a distributor, would be advertiser supported.
Advertisers are applauding this ability to cross-buy via TPG's varying outlets. "The core magazines are for parents with children of a certain age, but the family goes on, so I'm excited by Parenting's building their total parenting marketplace," says Steve Greenberger, senior vice president and director of print media for Gray MediaCom, New York. When AT&T decided to target the new parent, it too zeroed in on TPG's multipronged approach. "We were looking for a business program, not just a media schedule," says Star Kalatzan, svp/planning director at agency The Media Edge.
Of course, rival Parents is not sitting around waiting to be outdone. Gruner & Jahr USA Publishing has "other branding opportunities that are imminent," promises Parents and Child group publisher Sharon Summer. "The magazine is always the core, but in this world the core is best supported if you find other opportunities that complement it," she says. But the 75-year-old publication, believing more than TPG that the future is still heavily tied to the mother ship, is working to fortify its position as category leader, most recently via its ad campaign that aims to draw non-endemic advertisers into the family.
--Meryl Davids Landa