New Pub Of Time Inc.'s Weekly Entertains A Broader Mandate
While every publisher tends to rhapsodize about the ennobling effect that his or her title has upon humanity, Caine's words ring truer than most. Its clumsy launch in 1990 notwithstanding--apparently the mag's higher-ups were none too thrilled with the 'D' film reviewer Owen Gleiberman gave Pretty Woman, and the ensuing hubbub threatened the mag's critical credibility-EW has evolved into a pop-culture force by giving readers a mix of news, features, and reviews they can't find anywhere else. Name one other title that can, as EW did in its November 21, 2003 issue, sandwich an almost disturbingly entertaining profile of Wayne Newton between serious-minded analysis of why 18-to-34-year-old men have abandoned the broadcast networks and a retrospective on Ron Howard's films.
In short, EW is a unique property--a fact clearly not lost on Caine, the Time Inc. veteran who slid over from Teen People in December (he replaced Dave Morris, now the publisher of Sports Illustrated; Jack Rotherham assumed his publisher post at Teen People). "I'm a fan first and foremost; I've read literally every issue Entertainment Weekly has printed," he gushes. "But there's a responsibility that comes with being at a magazine that so many people look to every week. My job is to keep the momentum going."
EW navigated the rough waters of the magazine business reasonably well in 2003, growing its ad pages by 3.4 percent (to 1,931) and ad revenue by 7.4 percent (to $233.7 million); its rate base is up to 1.65 million. But where the magazine truly excels is in devising creative ways to partner with major brands. Being a marketer allied with Entertainment Weekly is akin to being a plus-one at a gala awards ceremony: you get fêted at the Sundance Film Festival, the Emmys, EW's own "It List" bashes, and just about anywhere else where entertainment and commerce collide.
"We have one of the most formidable marketing consulting departments in the country--we just don't call it that," Caine says. "The editorial is 'what do I need to watch, listen to, or read in the next week.' There's a ton of consumer power attached to that, and our challenge is to bring advertisers closer to it." A prime example might be EW's partnership with Ford around the mag's first "Great American Pop Culture Quiz." The automaker was the sole advertiser featured in the 21-page feature, and used the space to direct readers to its own "Ford Centennial Trivia Challenge."
"What the arrangement did was allow Ford to communicate with the audience in a way they were already predisposed to accept," Caine explains.
Although Caine bypasses the chance to talk about the demographic profile of EW readers ("I'd like to think that the advertising marketplace already knows a lot about our audience"), a few numbers are worth noting. Though the mag believes that its fans are defined more by their thirst for all things entertainment than age or household income, EW's readership skews slightly female (58 percent) and is both youngish (34) and relatively well-off (median HH income of around $57,000). Caine does, however, attempt to put a positive spin on EW's relatively low 5.5 readers per copy. "They love the magazine so much, they don't want to share it," he says.
When it comes to his readers' buying habits and influence over their peers, Caine perks up considerably. "They're going to movies, buying iPods, buying music--that's unusual these days, right?," he quips. More importantly, EW's readers tend not to be shy about offering recommendations. "They're the opinion leaders in social circles," Caine continues. "When the Oscar nominations come out, people turn to them and ask who should have been nominated. This is a great kind of person for any advertiser--they're ready and willing and eager to consume."
While endemic products (DVDs, television shows, etc.) tend to occupy many of EW's pages, the magazine excels in a host of ad categories that one wouldn't necessarily associate with a breezy entertainment title: Caine notes that the mag leads all others in ad pages from credit card companies. Perhaps EW's greatest strength from an advertising perspective is its diversity. In the January 23/30 double issue, for instance, three successive page turns find a spread for Maybelline, a one-pager for Kool Milds, and an ad for the Atkins line of food products.
Potential growth areas for 2004 and beyond include technology, gaming, beauty, and fashion. "I'd like to see fashion [companies] reintroduce themselves to this magazine," Caine says. "It makes so much sense, because these companies are trying to get closer to core entertainment events. Tommy [Hilfiger], Ralph [Lauren]--I'd like to see them come back." Additionally, with approximately 10 percent of EW's readers working in the entertainment business, trade advertisements could find their way into the magazine before too long. "I wouldn't be surprised to see 'for your consideration' ads in Entertainment Weekly," Caine adds, almost offhandedly.
Given all this, it's tough to identify EW's competitive set--as opposed to the teen or laddie categories, where every publisher knows exactly who is trying to pick his or her pocket. That said, Caine says EW eyes 22 magazines each week, focusing on those with a weekly frequency ("some advertisers base their decisions on that alone," he explains) and anything entertainment-related. Unlike many of his fellow publishers, Caine can say that he competes against TV and radio without getting laughed out of the room. "The EW product is just like a prime time entertainment show," he says. "Hey, if we were slotted in at eight o'clock, we'd be the number-one show most weeks."
In 2004, look for as many big-ticket partnerships as the market will allow, with EW attempting to broaden its most successful programs (Academy Awards, etc.) without overburdening them. "I don't think the model is to increase the volume of advertisers so much as it is to give them a more meaningful presence," he explains. "When an advertiser is part of something we do, we want them to feel like they own it."
As for growth, well, is there a publisher in the free world willing to predict anything but a solid-to-robust year? "Coming off what we did in 2003, it's almost silly to come out and say that we're definitely going to beat it," Caine says. "But this magazine hasn't reached its peak by any means."