Mag Bag: Hearst Campaign Highlights Mag Readership

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Hearst Campaign Highlights Mag Readership

Hearst Magazines is planning a PR campaign targeting advertisers and media buyers, focused on the message that consumer magazines still attract large audiences. In fact, their readership has been increasing, and consumers are willing to pay for content.

The Hearst Magazines campaign draws on data commissioned by the publisher from GfK MRI and other researchers, and its presentation for advertisers and media buyers will cover consumer magazines as a whole, not just Hearst titles, according to Mediaweek. Company reps will make the rounds to deliver in-person presentations beginning this fall.

Hearst President and Publishing Director Michael Clinton was quoted as saying: "The message we want to get out there is, in a world of free content, consumers spent $13 billion a year on magazines. Consumers continue to pay money buying their favorite magazines, and they read them and respond to them... you've got to listen to where the consumer is."



There is plenty of data to support Hearst's assertion that magazine audiences are actually increasing. The most recent data from GfK MRI, covering consumer magazines overall, showed total print readership growing by 1% from spring 2009-spring 2010. Taking a longer view, a MediaPost analysis of a decade's worth of MRI data showed that the total audience for 81 top titles increased 8% from 2000-2009.

But the big issue for magazines may not be readership at all: While readership has increased fairly steadily over the last few years, ad pages have declined precipitously. From 114,910 ad pages in the first half of 2006, the industry total dropped 32% to 78,218 in the first half of 2010, according to the latest figures from the Publishers Information Bureau.

The remarkable disconnect between trends in readership and ad pages suggests that magazines' problem lies elsewhere -- for example, in the perception that print advertising is not as measurable, transparent, or cost-effective as competing online formats.

Hef May Buy Playboy

After almost four decades as a publicly traded company, Playboy may go private again thanks to founder Hugh Hefner. The company's board of directors disclosed that it received a proposal from Hefner to take the company private with an $185 million bid backed by Rizvi Traverse Management. The company may also receive a bid from Marc Bell, CEO of FriendFinder, which purchased Penthouse back in 2003.

According to a preliminary letter of interest from Bell, FriendFinder is prepared to bid $210 million for Playboy. Both bids exceed Playboy's current market capitalization. The company's market cap has declined considerably from $458 million in 1999, slipping steadily to $367 million in April 2004, $350 million in November 2006, and $58 million in December 2008. By January 2010, it rebounded to $145 million. After news of the bids, the total value of outstanding shares rose to $190 million.

Oprah iPad App Sells E-books

In keeping with the namesake's role as kingmaker of the literary world, O the Oprah Magazine's forthcoming iPad app will include an e-commerce feature that allows users to buy digital editions of books, per Ad Age. The app, due out in the fourth quarter of 2010, will also offer users interactive content including video commentary from Oprah herself, and social media functions including reader comments. Hearst, which publishes O the Oprah Magazine, is also said to be preparing new iPad editions for a raft of popular titles, including Esquire, Marie Claire, Food Network, Cosmopolitan and Harper's Bazaar.

Outside Opens Boulder Office

In a contextually appropriate move, Santa Fe-based Outside magazine is opening a new sales and marketing office in Boulder, Colorado. The office will be headed by Mountain States associate publisher Cici Shick and marketing director Jennifer Wittman. Shick will be responsible for print, digital and integrated marketing sales for the Mountain region -- including Washington State -- assisted by Brittany Garrison-Pegues and Lesli Lawrence, who will be handling classified, travel directory and direct-response advertising.

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