EW Goes to Bed Earlier

With entertainment news  available on TV and the Web 24/7, Entertainment Weekly is under pressure to get its highly perishable programming content to subscribers in time to plan their weekend viewing, or it risks irrelevancy.

To preserve that relevance, the Time Inc. weekly is tweaking its delivery schedule to get copies to its 1.7 million subs earlier. Starting with the April 9 issue, 97 percent of subscribers will get delivery by Friday, up from 89 percent now. Newsstand copies (less than 3 percent of circulation) for the most part will still go on sale Thursday and Friday.

EW will have to move its close 12 hours earlier to 3 p.m. Tuesday for the delivery change, as Time Inc. sibling People recently did, giving staffers less time to break news.

Publisher Ray Chelstowski said the change would help EW court entertainment as well as food and retail advertisers who want to reach consumers before they do their weekend shopping. EW’s own research has shown that two-thirds of subscribers use the magazine to decide what movie to see that weekend and more than half use it to plan their weekend entertainment. “This is a way to make sure [advertisers] are in the market as soon as ever,” Chelstowski said.

Barry Lowenthal, president of The Media Kitchen, predicted that the change would help keep entertainment advertisers but doubted it would significantly move the needle with retailers. With so many other places to advertise, he said, “do I need another place to go to drive retail traffic?”

At a time when the title faces questions about its viability, the change also suggests a show of support by Time Inc. Traditionally highly profitable, EW’s ad pages have plummeted more than 50 percent in the past five years, to 966 in 2009. (The title reports some lift this Q1 when ad pages increased 28 percent, to 224.) Adding a fourth plant to move up delivery is “a big investment the company’s making in the brand,” Chelstowski said.