Special Report: Magazines Master the Cross-Platform Deal

NEW YORK Now that editors have nailed down their role in the evolving, brand-centric magazine marketplace, what about the sales side?

Finally, publishers appear to be getting it. Media buyers say that after their years of nagging, magazines have made great headway toward streamlining print and digital sales efforts, as more publishers spawn digital extensions like enhanced online editions and mobile products along with a range of nonmedia sidelines.

But it’s not just publishers who have had to get their act together. Some say magazines are now, in fact, far ahead of the media agencies when it comes to a cross-platform focus.

“The agencies aren’t doing as good a job of creating integrated media programs, so they turn the job over to the media company to come up with the solutions,” says Steve Greenberger, executive vp, media director at SLG Advertising. “Even the largest advertising agencies are not trained, nor do they have access to the media-planning tools for new media, which is quite scary. The unfortunate thing is, clients are suffering.”

Not that there hasn’t been action at the agencies. Carat this year merged its traditional and digital agencies. Late last year, Starcom USA created activation directors and folded its digital arm back into the agency to make it easier to pull off cross-platform deals. Other shops, including Deutsch, have integrated multiplatform buying services for years. Today, 80 percent of Deutsch’s business involves multimedia, reports Peter Gardiner, partner and chief media officer.

But print and online remain separate domains at many other agencies. And some marketers still use one agency for print, another for their digital needs. Many publishers and media buyers are in agreement that the slow reorg on the agency side has impaired sales integration at the magazines.

At Hachette Filipacchi Media, brands including 1.1 million-circ fashion book Elle and 3.9 million-circ women’s service player Woman’s Day deal with that reality by maintaining separate, albeit collaborative, print and Web sales teams. “As long as there are separate silos for buying, we’re going to have to have some separation on the selling side,” says Jack Kliger, Hachette’s president and CEO.

As a consequence of slow integration, naturally, ad dollars are being left on the table. Faced with that sobering reality, publishers stress the importance of selling clients on their expanding array of magazine-branded offerings and advertiser-tailored programs—while careful to manage relationships with clients and their disparate agencies.

“It’s hard,” says Mary Ann Bekkedahl, executive vp, group publisher at Rodale, publisher of 1.8 million-circ health-and-fitness monthly Men’s Health and its various spinoffs, as well as magazines including 3.4 million-circ health guide Prevention and 642,000-circ enthusiast title Runner’s World. “Different agencies have different metrics, different ROI goals. The trick is always getting the client to love the program. If the client loves the program, they make it work.”

So, when American Express a while back canceled a meeting with reps for Runner’s World about sponsoring a magazine-branded marathon, the sales team saved the day by insisting on a quick meeting that ended up winning over the client with a multiplatform pitch. Getting that buy-in was a critical first hurdle in the complicated process of working with AmEx’s print, online and events agencies MindShare, Digitas and Momentum.

Bekkedahl stresses that, on the agency side, much has improved. Years ago, integrated deals would be analyzed piecemeal and “ripped to shreds” by print and digital buyers analyzing deals in isolation. “We’re starting to see the agencies doing more of what we did,” she says. “It’s not as bleak out there as people might say.”

Last December, Rodale restructured its sales operations (in addition to editorial) to create a fully integrated print and online sales effort, with individual publishers taking responsibility for sales across all platforms. The new structure helped the company sell more than 30 integrated packages this year, says Bekkedahl. “Rather than just buying an event or run-of-book schedule, we’re able to command a premium because the combination is stronger than any of the components,” she explains.

With the increased demand for cross-platform deals comes hiring and training challenges. Bekkedahl says Rodale execs now must interview as many as 30 candidates to find people with cross-media sales experience, versus the five to 10 in the days of pure print sales.

Bill Shaw, publisher of 820,000-circ SmartMoney, a joint venture of Hearst and Dow Jones & Co., credits a “buddy system” pairing up print and online staff with effective cross-platform selling at his title. “Having one seamless sales force selling your brand as a whole is a key,” he says.

At Time Inc.’s Real Simple, publisher Steve Sachs says training existing staff has worked so far, but he foresees adding specialized reps to meet the growing demand for digital- exclusive deals. Real Simple, the 2 million-circ title that, in 2000, kickstarted the lucrative women’s lifestyle magazine genre, has become a model for spinning off smart brand extensions. The magazine’s numerous sidelines now include a growing line of housewares at Target stores (small cleaning wares were added this year), a PBS series that attracts 900,000 viewers per week, books, events, short-form segments on XM Radio, a mobile app and the syndicated newspaper column Real Simple Solutions.

As it has rolled out more enterprises, Real Simple has also, in recent years, boosted multiplatform sales efforts—this, after taking oversight for Web sales from corporate sibling AOL.

A Real Simple deal with Verizon Wireless, valued at $1.9 million, included magazine pages as well as a sponsorship of online recipes and mobile tie-in (consumers could get shopping lists to create Real Simple concoctions via their cell phones). Today, at least 95 percent of print RFPs ask for a digital component, says Sachs.

Publishers are finding exposure for their brands—and opportunities for advertisers—through a range of magazine-branded events, shows, bazaars, contests, and film and food festivals, including Condé Nast’s New Yorker Festival (celebrating its eighth year) and New Yorker Conference (new this year), American Express Publishing’s 25-year-old Food & Wine Classic, Hearst’s Country Living Fair (drawing 12,000 over the Columbus Day weekend), and Playboy’s annual, celebrity-studded Super Bowl bash.

Time Inc.’s Essence, following successful offshoots like the annual Essence Music Festival and a book club, this year created an online dating show, 30 Dates in 30 Days, the brainchild of editor in chief Angela Burt-Murray and the magazine’s new production unit Essence Studios.

Kicking off with a feature piece in the October issue of the magazine, readers in book and online were invited to match up five companionship-craving candidates and help them decide who to date, what to wear on their dates, and where to go out on the town. Each morning, essence.com featured an episode recapping the previous night’s date.

P&G’s CoverGirl Queen collection, with Queen Latifah as pitchwoman, sponsored the digital spinoff, with in-book ads and, on the site, preroll ads. Product integration was part of the deal: Participants primped in a CoverGirl Queen Suite, using the collection’s makeup products. Each of the Web recap episodes featured a participant describing her “queen moment.”

The product-integration element, in particular, “felt natural and completely complementary to the 30 Dates story line because every aspect of the program celebrated the inner strength and outward beauty of African-American women,” says Michelle Ebanks, president of Essence Communications.

Innovative multiplatform efforts are not only raising the profile of magazines and enhancing their relationships with their accounts, they’re also having a positive impact on publishers’ core print product.

At SmartMoney, publisher Shaw credits his cross-selling strategy with helping turn around ad-page declines in the magazine. Through November of this year, SmartMoney managed to hold steady in ad pages, edging up 1.2 percent versus last year—compared to a steep 9 percent decline among personal-finance magazines as a whole.

Says an encouraged Shaw, “It’s pure integration.”