Perhaps seeking to exploit this market niche, Premiere has hatched a partnership to work in concert with the American Film Institute. Under the terms of the deal, which was partially brokered by the William Morris Agency, Premiere will be delivered to 10,000 AFI members. More importantly, the alliance gives vice president and publisher Paul Turcotte more ammunition with which to approach advertisers seeking closer ties to the Hollywood community. The AFI hosts a range of events and activities for both film buffs and Hollywood types; with Premiere essentially becoming the organization's print arm for these events, the magazine should be afforded a level of access that few entertainment publications have enjoyed.
"We're the only magazine serving the industry. We are its magazine," Turcotte stresses. "A lot of our marketers want to work with the industry and our largest ad category by very far is entertainment, so obviously it makes a ton of sense for us." Ever-so-coincidentally, the deal comes at a time when AFI is attempting to grow its membership from 10,000 to 100,000, but Turcotte says the circulation benefits will be negligible: "Honestly, it's not like we'll be able to raise our rate base because of this." [It currently sits at 500,000.]
The rumor mill has had Premiere experiencing some tough times over the last few years, but the Publishers Information Bureau numbers don't entirely bear out that conclusion. The mag's worst year was 2001, when ad pages plunged 24.3% (from 552.8 to 418.2) and ad revenue sank nearly 15% (from $24.3 million to $20.7 million) against 2000 levels. But Premiere stemmed the bleeding, showing a 1.3% dip in ad pages and a 2.97% increase in ad revenue on the 2002 ledger. Through September, Premiere is up 4.77% in ad pages in 2003, though revenue has shrank 5.2%; Turcotte says the mag's December issue will boast its highest number of ad pages in four years.
Key to the turnaround, according to Turcotte, were a host of editorial changes made over the last 18 months or so. "We've recommitted to the industry," he says excitedly. "I don't know if we'd lost our way, but Premiere is back to its original purpose. We write about the craft and the art [of movies], not about who's breaking up with who or who had plastic surgery." Changes included returning to the magazine's original oversize format and the addition of 10 pages of home/DVD coverage, a decision which Turcotte claims was purely reader-driven. "Obviously it gave us one more reason to communicate with the CE folks," he admits. "But 50 million homes now have the technology. [DVDs are] enough of a distinct experience, with the bonus features and everything else, that they merit the added attention."
The mag also changed its business model - or, more accurately, hiked up prices to avoid complete financial reliance on ad revenue. Following what Turcotte describes admiringly as a "pretty loud and bold statement" from Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S. prexy Jack Kliger, in which he said that the mag behemoth would start asking readers to pick up more of the tab, Premiere increased its subscription rates by around 20% and its newsstand price by 49 cents. "It was something that had to be done," Turcotte says. "You've got a challenging newsstand climate, more and more difficulty in maintaining subscriptions and advertisers demanding quality subscribers. You can resist it or not, but that's the reality of the magazine industry."
While DVD/home video advertising has remained strong, Premiere has benefited over the last few months from a concerted push to increase theatrical advertising - Turcotte says the mag is up 65% in this category in 2003. He's optimistic about what he calls "image brands" in the fashion, fragrance and accessories categories, and hopes to continue Premiere's hot streak in high-end automobiles (Mercedes and Hummer were recently lured into the mag).