From Centerfolds To Luxury Spreads: The Upward Mobility Of James Dimonekas

When we last checked in with James Dimonekas, the 11-year Playboy veteran had just concluded a six-city road trip to meet with existing and potential marketing partners. But only a few weeks later, he was replaced as vice president and publisher by his former deputy, Diane Silberstein, amid whispers that he was being made the fall guy for the magazine's struggles over the past few years.

On his sixth day at his new gig - as Robb Report's vice president and associate publisher - Dimonekas isn't eager to discuss the circumstances surrounding his departure nor give his take on the state of his former employer ("honestly, I only have good things to say about everybody there"). He is, however, quite keen to have his plans for the luxury title heard by media planners and buyers.

"We've been doing a good job of taking our story to the street, but I'd still like to see a smarter marketplace," he says. "Marketers need to be smarter about how they take their money and invest it. They could take a cue from our readers."

According to the Publishers Information Bureau, Robb Report is averaging a little more than 80 ad pages per issue in 2003 (645.5 pages total, up 5.3% over the same period in 2002) and has grown its ad revenue by 14%, to $12.7 million. While the Audit Bureau of Circulation's report for the first six months of 2003 noted that the mag's subscriptions are down 6.6% against the year-ago period, single-sales copies surged 12% during that time. Circulation sits at around 107,000.

"Marketers shouldn't look at a circulation of 105,000 being small, but as being indicative of a position of strength," he argues. "Everybody's jaded now. I'd like to see them be a bit more open-minded."

Thus one of Dimonekas' primary goals will be convincing luxury advertisers that, despite Robb Report's limited reach, the consumption-happy habits of its readers make the magazine a prime venue for all things high-end. The RR reader spends $100,000 per year on products, while average household income is $1.1 million and average asset value is $5 million.

"When [the Robb Report reader] throws a party, he'll go through three cases of Macallan scotch. He'll pour Berringer Reserve," Dimonekas notes. "He doesn't just buy one suit every six months. He has a personal shopper and his own tailor."

Not surprisingly, then, Dimonekas is devising plans to grow the mag's business from liquor companies and what he calls "the designer market" (shi-shi brands like Brioni and Ralph Lauren Purple Label have run in RR in recent months). Consumer electronics has been strong, with a recent 20-page insert from Sony, and Dimonekas proudly crows that Robb Report is the only North American publication to carry ads for Rolls-Royce (an eight-page insert introducing the new Phantom model). A special section on yachts is planned for the November issue of the magazine.

Additional opportunities could stem from recent expansions of the RR brand. The mag's parent company, CurtCo Media, bought whatever few assets were left of Worth in June and will revive the magazine next month as Robb Report Worth; Robb Report Motorcycling, targeted at affluent motorcycle enthusiasts, is scheduled to debut on newsstands February 10.

Dimonekas is especially bullish about the possibility of cross-selling Robb Report with RR Worth. "There aren't too many companies that have two magazines for high-end individuals," he says. "We can present advertisers with a package they can't get anywhere else." Additionally, Robb Report will continue its support of luxury-first events like the BASELWORLD Watch and Jewelry Show and the annual "Best of Greenwich" event, which generated $1.2 million in sales in 2002. "Events like these are where our pages come to life," Dimonekas says. "It makes a lot of sense for us to have a highly visible presence there."

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