Special Report: Letter From the Editor

What’s that you’re reading?

Ah yes, a magazine. Surely you remember those. They’re that quaint medium that enabled Time Inc., Condé Nast and Hearst to erect global media empires that, lately, have become purveyors not only of print but also a dizzying display of digital sidelines (DVDs, VOD, mobile apps), TV shows, satellite radio channels, retail shops, clubs, housewares, flowering plants—even condiments (not one but two magazines now have their own lines of mustard). So, you’ll forgive us for thinking, upon seeing a press release this month promoting “Men’s Health Turkey,” they meant lunch meat, rather than the Rodale men’s lifestyle title’s latest international incarnation.

Men’s Health, which has spun out a range of products including books, DVDs, events and two wildly successful print siblings (Women’s Health, Best Life) under the guidance of busy editor in chief David Zinczenko, sits atop this year’s AdweekMedia Brand Leaders Hot List, our annual ranking of those magazines doing the most aggressive, ingenious job of propagating their brands. We arrived at the top 10 after weeks of research into what magazines were up to lately, and after consulting some of the most influential players in the ad community. As always, we considered only brands that started life in print versus TV (O, The Oprah Magazine, ESPN) or other media.

Zinczenko, as reported in Richard Brunelli’s “The A-B-Z’s of Branding” (see page SR5), is among a new crop of magazine editors who aren’t just journalists—they’re brand stewards, overseeing an expanding universe of media and nonmedia spinoffs. As Zinczenko explains, editors today must be “kings of all media.”

Those gathered this week in Boca Raton, Fla., for the American Magazine Conference (of which Zinczenko is chair) will get an earful about this “Maga-Brand Revolution,” the theme of this year’s confab, with publishers striving to prop up their brands as ads and consumers migrate to the Web and elsewhere. Editors from titles including Condé Nast’s Glamour and American Express Publishing’s Food & Wine will share about transforming their print vehicles into “brand behemoths,” while another panel will consider the “Editor as Octopus.” At least one discussion at AMC is devoted to journalism (novel)—but even that chat will focus on the Web and user-generated content, not the periodical.

It’s little wonder publishers are fixated on the “maga-brand.” After all, extensions have become big business. Take Time Inc.’s women’s lifestyle phenom InStyle (No. 7 on our list), with its growing roster of multiplatform pursuits including TV specials, books and a MySpace tie-in. InStyle reports that 5 percent of its revenue last year came from sources outside the magazine—projected to hit 20 percent five years from now. In “Face Time” (see page SR10), Lucia Moses explores the evolution—and remaining challenges—of publishers’ cross-platform sales strategies.

In the middle of this so-called revolution, let us not forget the wise words of Esquire editor in chief David Granger, ever the voice of reason: While magazine editors must, of course, be “cognizant of running the business,” he says, “if the core product, the magazine, doesn’t work, all the rest of it goes away pretty fast.”

Tony Case

Editor, Special Reports