Spin, Has None Where Its Ad Results Are Concerned
Indeed, the magazine's 2003 numbers aren't especially pretty. According to the Publishers Information Bureau, Spin is down 13.52% in ad pages during the first seven months of 2003 (to 365 from 422 in 2002). Ad revenue is also off, down 6.22% to $17.9 million. But instead of sugarcoating the situation, Mironovich seems to be using the downtime to refine Spin's position in a crowded entertainment marketplace.
Spin, he believes, will ultimately thrive because it is the only mass-market title that focuses exclusively on music. "Rolling Stone has become a pop-culture magazine - there are as many actors and actresses in there as musicians - and Blender is mixing music with the laddie formula," he says. "Right now, we're the only magazine that's concentrating on that passionate music lover, rather than that passerby pop-culture person."
It's a direction that hearkens back to the mag's roots. Founded 18 years ago, Spin quickly distinguished itself as the anti-Rolling Stone. "They had gotten so big and so pop," Mironovich explains. "There was a huge void in the marketplace." Towards the end of the 1990s, however, Spin made a conscious decision to broaden its editorial coverage and became something of an alternative-culture magazine. The result? Those same readers and advertisers were put off, and flocked away to other music mags.
"It was the time of the Britney Spearses and the *NSyncs," Mironovich recalls. "Spin sort of lost its bearings."
The magazine's recovery seems to have been slowed somewhat by the rise of the laddie mags. For years, it was assumed that titles attempting to reach young men were wasting their time - and Spin's median age has always been between 22 and 27. After the Maxim explosion, however, competition for demographically desirable male readers quickly intensified.
"I'm not going to say it didn't make our job more difficult," Mironovich acknowledges. "It used to be that no magazines did an efficient job [of reaching young men]. Sports Illustrated did it to an extent, but you also reached a lot of 45-year-olds. All of a sudden, there was Maxim, Stuff, FHM, ESPN The Magazine. It took a lot of ad dollars out of the marketplace."
Some of those dollars haven't yet returned to Spin. While car companies remain among the magazine's biggest boosters, Spin has seen weakness in fashion ("it's our largest category and I want to get it back," Mironovich says), gaming and electronics. "There should be a boom in the fourth quarter when all the new games come out," he adds. "Electronics has traditionally been strong for us, but it's been a tough year. Sony, for example, has been all but invisible."
Noting the fate that has befallen tobacco marketers over the last few years, liquor advertisers have curbed their appeals to Spin's young-ish audience. "[Liquor ads] are going to be gone soon," Mironovich states flatly. Similarly, entertainment companies attempting to transition into the digital era have also cut back. "You hope that music companies figure things out and come back, but who really knows?," he shrugs.
Rather than cry about spilled milk, Mironovich and his sales team are attempting to push into new categories. He sees potential in financial services and especially in technology, given the web-first inclination of Spin's core audience. "Technology and young people are going to drive so much of what we see over the next several years," he explains. "We went through the tech explosion and then everybody pulled back. But these companies are going to emerge with services and efficiencies that are going to change everything."
While the ad situation may seem dire, Spin's demographics remain quite favorable. The median age of its reader is 25 (as opposed to Rolling Stone's 28) and the mag's median household income sits at a more-than-respectable $56,198 (Rolling Stone's is $54,900). And while Spin's PIB data paints a picture of a magazine in transition, most of the other metrics are headed in the right direction. The spring 2003 MRI showed that readership has increased, and newsstand sales are up 18% in the first half of the year.
After the recent increase in Spin's rate base (from 525,000 to 550,000), Mironovich has no plans for another upward bump. He claims to be "not at all concerned" about newsstand sales and is "not committed one way or another" to generating more revenue from circulation by upping the subscription or issue price. His most pressing concern, in fact, seems to be the magazine's overall direction.
"What we do, we have to do it well," he says. "We have to concentrate on our core readers, not cater to mass pop culture. We can't compete in that arena, nor is it our heritage."