Hearst Takes Sales, Edit Innovations on the Road

Accountability and engagement are veritable mantras for many magazine publishers these days as they try to weather the economic storm. Hearst Magazines is taking that message on a road show for clients, print buyers and industry groups, where it’s showcasing technological changes and new ad formats aimed at giving advertisers new and easier ways to buy pages in its 15 titles.

“We’ve been working for some time on how to be the magazine company for the future,” said Michael Clinton, Hearst executive vp, chief marketing officer, who is making the presentations with president Cathie Black.

Along those lines, Hearst—which already grabbed headlines with unconventional covers on Esquire—is taking other cover treatments to market, including a cover sleeve with an ad on one side and editorial on the other.

Borrowing an idea from Hearst’s international editions, Marie Claire is running mini magazines that are glued to the cover—and at least one sibling title is considering copying the format. “It provides the advertiser with an opportunity to really stand out in a big way,” said Susan Plagemann, MC vp, publisher. Until now, the cover booklets ran eight to 12 pages, with one editorial theme and one sponsor. But the booklet on September’s MC will run 100 pages, cover multiple topics, carry several advertisers and be placed on 200,000 newsstand copies in addition to sub copies.

Bookazines (high-priced newsstand publications) also are getting a greater focus, with six slated to come out in the year ahead from Good Housekeeping, SmartMoney and others.
Hearst also is trying to boost its advertising’s effectiveness by customizing it by title. The marketing department has been tailoring ads to titles when the advertiser runs a schedule across multiple titles—taking on a job that agencies do, albeit at big expense. “This is the big future,” Clinton said, “because one of the things we keep saying to advertisers is, ‘One way to use magazines more effectively is to customize your ad to the magazine.’”

The company also is pushing its editors to put more shopping “calls to action” in their pages, a practice well underway at Seventeen that’s extending to titles like Country Living, Harper’s Bazaar and Town & Country. Hearst says the tactic strengthens reader engagement, but if readers end up buying the promoted products, publishers have another selling tool.

Finally, Hearst is making technology upgrades to give advertisers more flexibility in response to the increasingly last-minute nature of ad buying. A newly digitized ad delivery process will let advertisers change their ads later in the game. It’s also working towards trimming at least two weeks off the six- to seven-week span between ad close and on-sale date by year’s end.