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Publishers Ease Ad Close Deadlines

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For years, print buyers have complained about the historically long lead time between magazines’ ad deadline and on-sale date, typically upwards of seven weeks. Now, mirroring greater flexibility in broadcast media, magazines are starting to take ads closer to the on-sale date and narrowing the gap between ad close and sale date to get more pages in their struggling titles.

Hearst Magazines has shaved two weeks off its seven-week window at Cosmopolitan and intends to shrink the lead time to three weeks by January 2010. Plans call for adopting the same schedule for Food Network Magazine and eventually all of Hearst’s 15 titles, said Jeff Hamill, a senior vp at Hearst. “We’re spending an enormous amount of money to decrease the advertising lead time,” Hamill said. A representative confirmed the company’s goal is to get to a weekly magazine production model for its monthlies.

Meredith also is looking at shrinking the time between ad close and on-sale date for Better Homes and Gardens, Family Circle, Parents and its 20 other subscription-based titles, said Tom Harty, executive vp, Meredith Publishing Group. The company would like to cut that time in half, now about 60 days, Harty said. American Express Publishing’s Food & Wine is looking to shave a week off the time between close and on-sale date—now six weeks or more—by September, and cut a total of two weeks by 2010. Sibling pub Travel + Leisure expects to follow suit.

Wenner Media’s Men’s Journal has already taken the leap, shrinking the time to 26 days from 47 starting with its May issue.

Many titles already have been keeping deadlines fluid to stay competitive with other media. Local TV and radio are seeing campaigns placed closer to air date. Even out-of-home media have been able to respond to last-minute calls via digital boards. And, of course, the Internet is practically instant.

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