Digital Outsider: Magazines Want In

No combination of content and platform can be too surprising nowadays, with digital technology serving as a kind of media blender. This week brought yet another interesting flavor combo: magazines and place-based video networks.

Condé Nast's Bon Appetit is one of the first major consumer magazines to strike a deal with a big place-based video network, partnering with Premier Retail Networks to distribute special, custom-made content via PRN's Checkout TV, which operates about 19,000 screens at supermarket checkouts, with partners including Pathmark, Albertson's, and Wal-Mart. The short-form, custom content includes cooking tips, party ideas, and tie-ins with "The Next Food Network Star"; Bon Appetit also has a strategic partnership with the Food Network.

Actually, this is the second partnership between PRN and Bon Appetit: last summer, they teamed up to promote the magazine's Summer BBQ issue. And other major magazines have gotten into place-based video as a side benefit of broader partnerships: for example, content from Time magazine appears on the CNN Airport Network, as part of the magazine's content-sharing deal with CNN (both are owned by Time Warner).

But this week's announcement marks the first long-term content-sharing deal where a magazine sought out place-based distribution specifically. And it sets the stage for more partnerships between Condé Nast's dozens of magazines and PRN's different networks, which serve a variety of retail establishments, reaching a total of 6,500 stores. While pure speculation, it's not hard to imagine content from Wired or Details playing well at Circuit City or Best Buy.

Like many new media deals, the alliance brings different benefits to the two partners. On one side PRN gets premium, custom-made content with the editorial authority of a respected, well-known food magazine. Meanwhile Bon Appetit gets an incomparable promotional platform, using sight, sound, and motion to engage a captive audience of likely readers at the point of purchase. According to the magazine, last year's partnership with PRN raised newsstand sales of its July BBQ issue by 20%.

Magazine publishers in general have embraced online video in a big way, so it probably won't be long before Condé Nast's competitors embrace place-based distribution, too. Magazines are producing more and more branded, short form video content that could easily be repurposed. In 2006 Meredith Corporation created an in-house video production unit, and Time Inc. followed suit in 2007. More recently, Richard Glosser, CondéNet's executive director of emerging media, was quoted as saying "all roads lead to broadband video," according to Will Richmond of VideoNuze, who added that CondéNet is now producing or licensing about 600 videos per year, most of them 2-3 minutes long.

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