The trend by publishers to sell along function lines has yet to convince all agency executives. "Magazines still have to come to grips with what they are and what they want to be," says Backer's Rutman. "They've has a difficult time demonstrating what can add value and what just adds things."
These suspicions are even more pronounced when considering the merchandising craze, such as mall tours, contest, fashion shows, giveaways and other niceties that aren't always relevant to reader needs and advertiser objectives. "Invariably the sales rep shows up with five pages of what the magazine can do, tosses them out, and sees if the advertiser wants one," says Janice Clements, director of media and marketing services at McCabe and Company. "Every media buyer is looking for added value, but most magazines come in with off-the-shelf, generic ideas."
Indicative of how sore publishers are after years of elbowing over rates, they complain that merchandising has become a way for advertisers to squeeze out extras from those who refuse to give price breaks. One small publisher has even taken to opening his books to show advertisers that his profit margins are not extravagant. "I can't keep taking more out of my bottom line, and they've seen that I'm right."
And what about those price increases—will they finally stick? Yes, says Brack, who is looking at rate hikes of about 4%, but not for all of Time Inc.'s titles. Pandolfi says Times Mirror will be asking for 6% more and will probably end up at 3-4%. Jumps of 7-9% are what set of Saatchi's Weinblatt.
"I haven't had time to sound out publishers on these numbers," he explains, "but they're going to be difficult to justify. I don't see the incentive to pay them. We have finite budgets and our own pressure to provide more value. If I can't sell these increase to my clients, the money won't go to the magazines."
Is that a negotiating tactic?
Stephen Barr writes regularly about the publishing industry for Adweek Magazines.
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