AMC Notebook: Editors, Publishers Seek to Carefully Connect With Readers

Publishing a magazine today demands that editors and publishers look beyond the page to connect with readers and develop new sources of revenue.

But sometimes those goals can conflict, leading those efforts to fall flat with readers, magazine executives conceded at this year’s American Magazine Conference in San Francisco, which ended Tuesday (Oct. 7).

When publications try to build loyalty with readers by embracing social and environmental causes, enlisting advertising support can be fraught with peril if the marketer’s mission isn’t compatible with the cause, editors said.

Linda Fears, editor of Meredith Corp.’s Family Circle, which has sponsored Share Our Strength’s Great American Bake Sale to help feed children, warned that magazines should look at causes foremost as a way to connect with readers.

“Look at it as a way to extend the brand, and if it attracts enough readers, hopefully advertisers will follow,” said Fears, who spoke on a panel about cause marketing.

Stacy Morrison, editor of Hearst Magazines’ Redbook, admitted that Redbook’s support of victims service organization Safe Horizon led to a skirmish which led to “very intense” talks between the two. Other cause-marketing relationships with the women’s title have gone more smoothly, she said. When Avon teamed up with the magazine to support the Strength and Spirit awards last year, for example, Morrison said, “the message overlay was exact.”

Magazines that cook up ad-side programs that go beyond the page also do at their peril.

Hachette Filipacchi Media has been active in selling integrated programs that have included inviting readers via e-mail to test-drive advertisers’ cars through the company’s virtual test-drive platform and at live events. As a result of programs like these, the company derives 15 percent of its revenue from digital sources, said Robert Ames, vp and general manager of Hachette Filipacchi Media’s digital automotive group and men’s enthusiast network.

But, as Ames said, sometimes the efforts have fallen flat with readers. “We’ve done programs for advertisers that the audience didn’t care about, and as a result, the response wasn’t that great,” he said, adding, “In the case of our enthusiast audience, they will call us almost immediately if they feel we are crossing the line.”