Mag Buyers To Pubs: Make Editors Your Sales Stars

When trying to sell an agency on a magazine, publishers might have a secret weapon: The editorial department.

While planners and buyers recognize the need for the long-held separation of church and state in the magazine industry, they also say the editorial side can embody the passionate connection of the magazine to its readers, its very reason for being. And that's an important selling point when it comes to snagging an agency's interest in a particular magazine.

"God bless salespeople but I'll take an editor any day in understanding the voice of a magazine," said Steve Moynihan of Boston-based MPGArnold. Moynihan spoke Tuesday afternoon as part of a panel on magazine buyers' during the Fall Folio Show in New York.

Moynihan said that it's important for agencies to hear from the people who can discuss the magazine's mission and why it exists. A lot of times that's someone from the editorial department, who can talk about the magazine's voice and other aspects. He said that there's plenty of data available to planners from syndicated services but it's up to magazines to tell why they're the best buy. Highlighting the research and ignoring the magazine's special qualities isn't the best way to sell, he suggested.

"We're going to do the research anyway, because we don't believe you," Moynihan quipped.

Even the prosaic business-to-business magazines would do well to inject personality into their pages, said one buyer. Caroline Riby, media director at Roberts Communications in Rochester, N.Y., said that B-to-B titles do a great job on circulation data and other marketing relationships but have missed the boat when it comes to understanding the readers themselves.

"You seem to know your audience on the business-to-business side but not as people," Riby said. B-to-B titles need to start thinking like consumer books, knowing readers' passions and interests, down to the detail of what they prefer for breakfast.

Riby said that B-to-B needs to entertain like a consumer title, too, recognizing that the readers' busy lives mean that magazines must find ways to combine business and pleasure. Few people have extended time for both these days, she said.

"Nobody says business-to-business has to be all business," Riby said.

That starts with hiring journalists who eat, drink, breathe and dream the business they're covering, Riby said. "That passion will come back to your readers," she said. And make your editors stars.

"Let us know about them. It makes us bonded to the publication," Riby said.

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