Rackin' It Up

In 2004, the magazine industry finally awoke to the fact that, while it was sleeping, there was an actual ad recovery going on, as ad pages finally rebounded after a nearly yearlong drought. Even more proof of recovery came as a number of high-profile and well-received launches made it through the haze, both from independent and major publishers.

Also, he industry finally appears to have stepped up to the plate, pushing aside infighting (for a while at least) in the interest of promoting the print medium as a whole. The Magazine Publishers of America (MPA) last year kicked off a three-year, $40 million campaign to promote the effectiveness of the medium. There is plenty for the MPA to sell, as various research studies indicate that magazine readers might actually pay more attention to ads than previously thought.

So it seems that after several tough years, print is back. Given the palpable sense of excitement and dare we say, optimism, selecting the magazines of the year was a daunting task.

In the following pages, MEDIA includes 22 titles that have made an impact, or will in the immediate future. While we considered the basics like advertising performance and circulation growth, we didn't just pull a list of the top 10 according to Publishers Information Bureau data. We looked at editorial quality and uniqueness. We tried to find magazines that actually filled a void, rather than merely copied a competitor. In some cases, we picked magazines we liked. In a few cases, we chose magazines we didn't.

In addition, the Magazine of the Year represents a title that truly shook up the industry's thinking and expectations; its influence should resonate for a while.

While hardly scientific, this group, by MEDIA's estimation, warrants media planners' attention in 2005.

A mag for rank-and-file women who shop at Wal-Mart

From the outset, there were as many skeptics as there were proponents of Time Inc.'s All You. First, there was the European-styled cover, cluttered with a dozen or so headlines.

"Everyone's reaction initially was, 'There are quite a lot of cover lines there,'" says Editor-in-Chief Bella Price, of the discussions that took place when the magazine's first covers were being tested.

But Price, who came to All You from Time Inc. subsidiary IPC Media in London, was confident that her tried and true newsstand-only sales techniques would work in the United States.

"There is a real science to it," she says. "If you don't sell immediately, you've lost them. For example, you can't use puns. Readers don't have time to decode anything. It's about how fast they can understand the trade-off between the cover lines and the cover price," Price asserts.

Yet besides the cover, there was that wacky business model that threw people off. Circulation experts were initially skeptical of the fact that All You would be sold at a single outlet, as part of a much publicized, exclusive partnership with Wal-Mart. Most had doubts about the promised rate base of 500,000.

"It was hard to believe that they could get to that level just at Wal-Mart," says Dan Cappell of Cappell's Circulation Report. Cappell estimates that Wal-Mart represents 15 to 20 percent of the industry's single copy sales.

Applying that percentage to other titles, even the largest single copy sellers don't move nearly 500,000 copies at Wal-Mart. "No other magazine sells that," says circulation analyst John Harrington, president of Harrington Associates. "It's a pretty ambitious goal."

While Time Inc. won't provide any hard numbers, all reports are that All You is defying expectations. "We are consistently hitting rate base," says publisher Diane Oshin.

So while the initial publisher's statement to the Audit Bureau of Circulations is highly anticipated, it would appear as though All You is clicking, making for one of the more impressive magazine launches in some time, given its completely service-oriented editorial and dynamic business plan.

"The timing is great, the marketing is great, and they are going after that red state woman," observes Samir Husni, a professor of journalism at the University of Mississippi.

Besides boasting of an impressive business plan, All You seems to have nailed something with its editorial approach and tone that works in red states, and even in blue ones.

Oshin said that newsstand surveys placed in the magazine's first four issues registered a 15 percent response rate. She adds that the title achieved the highest reader satisfaction score she's seen in 15 years.

According to Price and Oshin, it's All You's mantra of "Real. Everyday. Value." that has helped the magazine hit a success note.

"We read every article aloud," Price says. "It's always got to be a conversation with the reader rather than that awful magazine speak. I ask our writers, 'Would you really do that?' We use a real life situation filter." "It's about achievable ideas and being realistic, rather than creating guilt or unrealistic expectations," Oshin adds.

For example, the December issue included two pages titled: "We Found That Perfect Little Black Dress, and So Can You!" Pictured were five All You readers, none of whom were model perfect. Three of the five were 40 and older, and one actually had gray hair.

For the piece, each woman tried on several dresses and then explained why they selected the garment they did. The featured dresses ranged from $15 to $70.

"This is really the next generation of women's service magazines," Price says. "Our competition is over-promising, saying you can lose 100 pounds in a week and then putting a chocolate cake on the cover." Husni agrees that All You is on to something by not being overly aspirational. "It has been some time since a magazine reached down to its readers," he says, adding, "It walks hand-in-hand with them." Michael Shields

Exotic, fresh, non-linear, and touches a nerve

Suede Magazine attracted quite a bit of attention when it launched last fall - and for good reason. With its brilliant colors, unusual design, and editorial focus on fashion for younger women of color, Suede made clear from the outset it wasn't interested in "same-old, same-old," says editor Suzanne Boyd.

"The magazine seems to have touched the nerve we needed it to touch," Boyd notes. "We wanted it to reflect the fact that the audience is not the same, that this was a new way of looking at fashion."

Compared to most magazines that go for a clean, linear look, Boyd says Suede's design from the get-go was meant to be different. "We went for the opposite of linear," she notes, adding, "It's a sort of baroque style, full of embellishment and color, a blurring of color and pattern. It really gives it more of a cultural feeling."

Editorially, Suede's approach to fashion is not to focus merely on what gets handed down from the runway shows, but on multicultural, street, and guerrilla influences.

"We want to know what's bubbling up from the subculture, because an important part of fashion today is the power of popular culture.

A big part of Suede's focus is on the influence music - particularly hip-hop - has on fashion. So in addition to plenty of content related to fashion, there's an emphasis on what's new and noteworthy in the music culture that drives so much of what's hot.

In 2005, Boyd says Suede plans to add a more comprehensive shopping section and more arts and entertainment content. She's also looking at partnerships with advertisers, as well as event sponsorships, to will raise the magazine's profile. Alex Miller

Still edgy and prescient, yet increasingly accessible

Wired was getting a little tired even before the tech bubble burst in 2001. The barometer of all tech trends real and downright fanciful, has since recaptured some of its former glory with a combination of editorial acumen and a reinvigorated design.

The magazine marked its second year of sustained growth, increasing its rate base in January 2005 by 25,000 to 575,000, and ad pages for November alone were up 26 percent over the previous year. For tech, media, and even auto ad clients, the magazine is a great venue for reaching young, affluent, and culturally engaged audiences who are enthused about the future.

Wired has evolved from smug geekiness to a more inclusive brand of futurism that is attracting a broader readership and ad clientele. Cover stories on "The Future of Food" and how California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger represents a new style of populist political machine, satisfy a universal hunger for trends and clues about what is around the corner for culture, not just technology.

Editor Chris Anderson has been adept at filling his monthly feature well with enticing fare, and the magazine continues to sport one of the most cutting-edge designs in the business. The front section of reviews, news, and perennial "Wired vs. Tired" listings is still the best way for young urbanites to stay hip to the cultural vibe in under an hour. Steve Smith

A mainstay that continues to deliver scoops, fresh insight

Newsweek took home yet another National Magazine Award for General Excellence in 2004, continuing its legacy of strong election-year coverage, while delivering riveting stories from the war in Iraq. As it has done for every election since 1984, the magazine assigned a special team of reporters to cover the "behind the scenes" story of the Bush-Kerry race. Editor Mark Whitaker says these features are something readers really look forward to.

"This year it was particularly successful," Whitaker says. "There was a huge buzz. We uncovered a lot of new information, but it was also due to the fact that people were just really fascinated by this election." Whitaker credits Newsweek's continued success to the magazine's "incredible" reporters and a revamped post-9/11 editorial philosophy.

"We were determined to no longer be the news magazine that just summarized the week's news but to push as hard as we can every week to give people fresh reporting, fresh analysis," Whitaker explains. "We had the horses to do it, we were planning the redesign when 9/11 happened. So we decided to go for it."

Newsweek stays above its competition, Whitakers says, by sticking to the news magazine format, but doing it so well that the end result is a weekly full of breaking news that retains the quality people expect in a monthly. With 3.1 million in paid circulation, Newsweek still trails Time, but Whitaker says audience numbers are stronger than ever.

"Our readership is closer to 20 million, which is neck-and-neck with Time," he adds. "We've got great reach and great demographics in terms of income and education level of our readers. I think that has a lot to do with the approach we've taken." Alex Miller

POLITICS: The Economist
Less stodgy than you think, title seeks to expand advertiser base

Note to media buyers and planners: the next time you're meeting with Olly Camyn, senior vice president and advertising director, Americas, for The Economist, don't bother trying to finagle a discount. "There are lots of publications out there for whom a rate card is not a rate card. I don't know why they publish them, honestly," he scoffs.

Coming from many other magazine executives, this might sound like spin designed to draw attention away from problems elsewhere. But The Economist enjoyed a strong 2004, with ad revenue up 20 percent and decidedly non-discounted ad pages up around 7 percent. So why all the attitude?

Chalk it up to an unwavering belief that the title offers something that no other entity does: a truly global perspective on the events of the day. Too, Camyn stresses that the magazine's readers are worth the extra money. As opposed to many of its competitors, whose devotees are aging alongside the magazine, the 161-year-old publication saw its readers' average age decrease over the last 18 months, to 41.

Armed with this demographic data, Camyn has been making the rounds of tough-to-crack advertisers. With the magazine about to break the 500,000 barrier in North American circulation, The Economist has renewed its focus on Detroit, adding its first-ever sales rep in the region.

Camyn hopes to grow the title's business with pharmaceutical companies, identifying Bristol-Myers Squibb as a target. He anticipates continued business from airlines and hopes that purveyors of luxury goods will warm to the magazine's advances. Larry Dobrow

HISTORY & CULTURE: National Geographic
Title remains "timeless," relevant, and a good read

In an industry as trendy as magazine publishing, where hot mags seem to come - and go - virtually overnight, there are a few titles that are perennial favorites. And while it may not be as fashionably hip as the laddie books, or as trendy as the plethora of shopping-oriented publications, National Geographic delivers consistently for its readers, year in and year out. And for 116 years! How many magazines can say that? You'd think that after a century of publishing, National Geographic's formula would have grown stale but it's managed to remain fresh while delivering quality editorial and compelling layouts.

"It's one of the few books I pay for myself," concedes Gay MacLeod, agency of record, print director at MediaCom, who as the agency's top print buyer, gets just about any magazine she wants on a complimentary basis. "If you had to use one word to describe National Geographic, it's 'timeless.' It's not about fads. It always has great stories, beautiful photography, and the best maps you'll ever see in a magazine."

During the first 11 months of 2004, National Geographic's ad pages soared 27 percent over the same period in 2003. That beat the average magazine industry page gain of 3.1 percent. Joe Mandese

ETHNIC: Latina
An often overlooked demographic that advertisers need

When asked about her title's successes and challenges in 2004, Latina publisher Beth Press responds by looking forward. "We've created a wheel and Latina is at the hub of it," she says, pointing to, among other things, a deal in which some of the magazine's content will be published on Univision's Web site. "We're in a position now where we can embrace and encompass the entire market." With a jump to 400,000 effective in this month, the magazine will have doubled its circulation over the last four years.

Ad pages were up 8 percent to 938, with 1,050 set as a goal in 2005, and revenue jumped 40 percent, to around $25 million. Couple this with long-term projects, and it's clear that what Latina has been preaching since its birth, that Hispanic women constitute a demographic powerhouse, has caught on with advertisers. In 2004, the title benefited from a handful of big names in categories where it had previously lagged behind its competitors in the women's lifestyle segment.

"When the magazine was started, maybe advertisers weren't ready to speak to this audience," Press says. "Targeting U.S. Hispanics with ad dollars isn't just smart business, it's essential business." Larry Dobrow

Cultivating an edgy tone of seasoned skepticism

Like the Playboy "Playmate" and Time's "Man of the Year," the Fortune "500" list is one of those rare instances when a magazine's brand becomes iconic.

Fortune successfully leveraged its own legend in 2004 with a 50th anniversary celebration of the grand list in every issue, online, and in a TV special. This show of brute strength attracted major cross-platform sponsors like IBM Corporation, the Royal Bank of Scotland, and AT&T, and helped Fortune grow ad pages 12 percent between January and November of 2004, according to the Publishers Information Bureau.

We admire Fortune for being anything but musty, despite middle age. Whether it's taking Disney to task for lavishing Mike Ovitz with perks or grilling CitiGroup's CEO on scandals and poor stock performance, the magazine's editors don't just cheerlead for the "500" but keep executive feet to the fire.

The prose has an identifiable, edgy tone of seasoned skepticism that rises above other business titles. Fortune claims a younger demographic than other business titles with readers who are at the height of their careers.

By focusing as much on the personalities behind the powerhouse companies featured in the magazine as on their management of the business, Fortune lets readers see themselves in the content. Steve Smith

Feeding an insatiable need, it's tawdry but we love it

It's so intoxicating, it even looks and smells good. Us Weekly, the celebrity juggernaut, is a staple for magazine junkies, especially women in their 20s and 30s. Reading it seems to fulfill a primal need to gain insight into the lives and pratfalls of all celebrity-kind.

We may forget what we've read the minute we put it down, but Us Weekly is still our No. 1 choice when we need to know how the stars decorate their homes or how they dress when they think no one is watching.

Us Weekly's formula of celebrity photos, trends, and, of course, blush-worthy gossip, may seem simple, but it manages to keep readers' interest without crossing the nearly invisible line between magazine and tabloid.

With Editor-in-Chief Janice Min at the helm, Us Weekly raked in over $129 million in advertising dollars through November 2004, and ad pages were up 24 percent for the month, according to the Publishers Information Bureau. The title's circulation was up 17 percent through June of 2004 and newsstand sales increased 47 percent for the period compared to 2003, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

The magazine that helps dictate pop culture has become a pop culture phenomenon in its own right and shows no signs of stopping - except to pick up another Balenciaga bag on the way to the next star-saturated gala. Jennifer Coleman

Loaded with extras, it's packed like a DVD boxed set

Premiere magazine is to other entertainment books what DVD is to VHS - sharper, higher resolution content with more versatility and depth. Under the editorial leadership of Peter Herbst, the magazine has become the modern movie buff's must-read. With a circulation of 500,000, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulation, it is also the place studios go to hawk those DVD boxed sets and electronics marketers go to address early adopters.

Premiere's covers celebrate the latest film releases and celebrity gestalt but once inside, readers can meet the needs of their inner film buff. The magazine is an example of how the oxymoronic "entertainment journalism" grows a brain - fluff meets film fetish.

Whether it is genuinely insightful movie reviews, retrospectives on the making of "Ghostbusters," oversized galleries of Clooney, Damon, and Pitt channeling the Rat Pack, or a granular perspective on the role of audio-mixing in film production, Premiere embraces the full range of media maven tastes. It's like a great DVD with loads of extras.

The book exploits its oversized format, matching smart prose with large images that don't just talk about film so much as reiterate the joy of the cinema experience. A two-page spread in Premiere actually mimics a wide theater screen.

Advertisers apparently love the canvas, sending Premiere's ad pages up 26 percent from January to November 2004, according to the Publishers Information Bureau. Upscale jewelry, spirits, and grooming brands join consumer electronics and studio advertisers in tapping a dream demo of young, affluent, media-savvy consumers. Steve Smith

The high priestess of self-improvement kicks it up a notch

Oprah has successfully led her ravenous TV audience to her favorite books, fitness and gift choices, and in 2000, to reading her personal life guide, O The Oprah Magazine each month. Her audience has been faithful; the magazine's total circulation rate tops 2.7 million. The magazine is packed with inspiration for stay-at-home moms and the career-driven alike; weight loss and exercise advice are never in short supply. But the content doesn't stop there.

O gives readers a bang for the buck - content is packed tight within the pages, in the style of Redbook or Women's Day. Recipes, vacation getaways, fashion and beauty trends, as well as celebrity dish fill the pages.

But unlike other women's books, O is not clogged with quizzes designed to jazz up your sex life or other please-your-man content. On the contrary, O preaches Oprah's self-improvement gospel loud and clear from the opening pages with Dr. Phil, to her monthly "Oprah Talks to" interview, to her book corner featuring titles that "engage," "transport," and "make a difference."

What other magazine so effortlessly promotes multiculturalism all the while encouraging women to get up, take action, and lead a fulfilling life? Dacia Ray

A groaning board for guys who love to shop

Some might say Condé Nast got "lucky" with the successful 2004 launch of Cargo. When the title debuted, many expressed doubt about the need for a men's shopping title. However, a look at the numbers suggests that the title has successfully capitalized on a void in the men's magazine market.

Instead of naked women frolicking in the surf, Cargo's sexiness comes from the sleek appeal of its product recommendations. From finding the right seasonal suit and de rigueur shaving cream, to 42-inch plasma TVs and pebbled leather magazine racks, the magazine educates and entertains without unnecessary pomp or pretension. Cargo also seems to answer all the questions men were previously afraid to ask or didn't realize they should be asking.

The first issue of Cargo, March/April 2004, carried 97 ad pages. The magazine ended its launch year with six issues totaling 639 ad pages, according to Condé Nast. That translates to more than $20 million in ad sales, according to the Publishers Information Bureau.

Cargo advertisers include consumer electronics and home furnishings companies, and even marketers of women's products like Lanc"me's Attraction for Women perfume, making us wonder who the reported 100,000 newsstand issues were actually sold to in 2004 - men, or their girlfriends?

The magazine will expand to 10 issues in 2005, and Cargo is upping its original ratebase of 300,000 to 350,000 with the February issue, according to Condé Nast. Jennifer Coleman

SERVICE: Real Simple
The new women's service magazine where less is more

Life is complicated. But at Real Simple, the "keep it simple stupid" philosophy prevails: simplify the ingredients, get interchangeable clothes, satisfy the soul, and above all else, less is more. At least, that's what Simple touts.

The magazine has grown rapidly since its 2001 debut to over 1.7 million in total circulation. One of the reasons MEDIA cites Real Simple for its comprehensive content and clean, uncluttered design.

An example of this elegantly simple design is a two-page spread in the December/January issue which features an orange carrot dangling from a string against a polka-dotted yellow background; turf-green grass lines the page.

Apart from the pretty pages, a girl's heart is won with the smart advice, like how to get what you want, stick to goals, find the perfect evening dress, or track down a discontinued lipstick.

With accolades from readers and advertisers alike, comes the thickest and most engaging book this side of Vogue. Dacia Ray

Packs more reader empathy in a crowded field

In a crowded field, More continues to rise to the top of the heap with a highly focused editorial philosophy in addition to a major redesign under new editor Peggy Northrop.

With paid circulation jumping nearly 13 percent over 2003, the October 2004 issue carried a record 107.8 ad pages. The title's rate base crossed the 1 million mark last September. It was a big year for More in terms of numbers, but the magazine also continued to touch its readers on a more emotional level.

Since its launch in 1998, More has targeted women over 40, a group that continues to grow and influence marketing decisions. As such, the magazine appears well placed to continue its rise in circulation and ad pages. For the title's redesign last November, Northrop and designer Robert Priest wanted to achieve two things: "I think any magazine in the lifestyle category has to have a distinct visual vocabulary," Northrop says. "People look for it, that branding. The other part was it had to reflect our readers who are confident, adventurous, and bold."

Northrop added that More continues its relentless quest to really know its readers. Through a combination of in-house and online surveys, More has garnered a unique understanding of its readers that the marketplace has begun turning to the magazine to provide. To retain its dominant position, Northrop says the title will continue to focus exclusively on women in their 40s and 50s.

"The job of the editor is to stay on-message," she says, adding, "You have to be clear about what kind of brand you're building and be relentless about it." Alex Miller

MEN'S LIFESTYLE: Esquire The venerable men's magazine enjoys a renaissance

Not too long ago, laddie magazines were red-hot, and the traditional men's category was considered stale at best, and in deep trouble at worst.

In 2005, magazines like Maxim and FHM have cooled considerably, overshadowed by launches like Cargo, which scored our kudos for best shopping title. Meanwhile, last year Esquire celebrated its 75th anniversary not only producing some of its best work ever, but also taking home a spate of coveted National Magazine Awards.

Coinciding with this anniversary, or perhaps inspired by it, the title continues to enjoy a renaissance, proving there is a place for serious, long-form journalism in men's magazines while still remembering that the brand is about having fun.

The anniversary issues were an entertaining trip down memory lane, showcasing great covers (a young Muhammad Ali shadow boxing with his modern counterpart, as well as Britney Spears re-creating Angie Dickenson's famous cover). There was a retrospective piece on the magazine's famous "Women We Love" issues, complete with and apologies for loving certain women, as well as for promoting some bad fashion.

Moving beyond self-congratulation, Esquire continues to produce quality journalism like a prescient profile of Dick Cheney last September, and January's investigative piece on an Iraqi refugee who exposed a fraud.

And of course, there were those 2004 national magazine awards, including recognition for Esquire's growing reputation as a destination for serious coverage of the arts, as well as for providing one of the few places apart from The New Yorker for original fiction. Michael Shields

HEALTH & FITNESS - MEN: Men's Health
The sense and sensualities of the American male

Every generation or so, a magazine comes along that seems to embody the sense and sensualities of the American male: Esquire in the 50s, Playboy in the 60s, GQ in the 80s, and a raft brash laddie titles in the late 90s.

But even as all of these magazines continue to compete for the heart, soul, and dollars of men in the new millennium, it is a title that has less to do with man at his best or the exposure of a naked breast. This title has truly zeroed in on what American men, especially the rapidly maturing Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers have grown to be about: health. Specifically, Men's Health.

The Rodale title, already a hot book on many lists for years, rated as one of MEDIA's favorite magazines of 2004 for simply doing what it does best: providing great writing, fresh ideas, hip art direction, and of course, "tons of useful stuff" has become a healthy addition for many male readers.

Perhaps what is most remarkable about the emergence of Men's Healthas a leading men's magazine, is that it has achieved its status with a format that women's service magazines have used successfully for years. It capitalizes on the growing health concerns of men, but it looks at the subject in a far broader concept, treating health as a metaphor for all of the things men do, or maybe shouldn't do with their lives: exercise, nutrition, fine living, and of course, sex. Joe Mandese

Ship Shape: All you need for healthy living, fads not included Shape headed into 2005 as strong as ever, no small feat in a category that has plenty of competition within its own ranks, as well as from general lifestyle magazines. Shape's staff works hard to maintain its credibility by not succumbing to every new fitness fad, and it benefits from having a woman who's a recognized national expert on health, fitness, and wellness as editor-in-chief. Barbara Harris has been on top of Shape's masthead since 1987.

"If you look at Shape, the mission has never changed," Harris says, adding, "It's to help women create better lives. We have a strong commitment to our readers, to offer them the most credible information available; we really value our readers' trust." Harris says 2004 was another great year in part because women are growing to understand that it's not just about health, but about vitality for life. "It's not just being fit, but living healthfully," she notes. "If you don't do that, if you don't feel good, then there's no energy to do the things in life that are meaningful to you."

Harris says Shape strives to stay one step ahead of its readers, so that they're well informed before the next big thing comes along. She also says the magazine doesn't run advertising that conflicts with its editorial content. "We study the research and tell the truth to our readers," Harris says, adding, "We want our reader to understand how she can make sense of all this and apply it to her life." Alex Miller

LIFESTYLE: Organic Style
Rodale adds its green thumb to the lifestyle category

When Organic Style debuted in 2001, it was initially met with apprehension and skepticism. The content, for the socially conscious and earthy, seemed a natural extension although a risky one for Rodale, which paved the way with Organic Gardening in 1942.

The magazine came at a time when Rodale had sloughed employees for the first time in its 70-year history, shuttered New Woman after only two years, and its Organic Gardening struggled to hold onto readers and advertisers alike; simply put, the company needed a winner.

The book encompasses a variety of topics offering a mix of shelter, beauty, food, and health topics, as well as advice on how to lead a better life. The staff even shares organic bloopers. "Call it an embarrassing organic moment. We've all had them," admits Editor Jeanie Pyun, in a letter from the editor. The staff shares mistakes in composting, parking, recycling, and growing herbs. It's also loaded with articles on celebrities who have embraced the organic culture, tips on using recycled goods for decorating, using mass transit for travel, skin care recipes, and advice on how to stay sane in a hectic world.

Readers and advertisers seem to approve. Advertising revenue rose 85.8 percent to $15.2 million through August 2004, and increased 13.8 percent to $13.4 million in 2003. Organic Style, which paved the way for the organic lifestyle, now sees mainstream magazines such as InStyle and Self offering their own stamp on the trend by producing standalone so-called "green" issues. Dacia Ray

YOUTH/GAMING TIE: Playstation 2 & Xbox
Amid an ad slump, two titles defy the odds and deliver the goods

Last year was challenging for gaming magazines. While video games continued to dominate the waking hours of 20-something males, the business itself went into a "tweener" period. With Sony and Microsoft readying the next generations of the PlayStation and Xbox, game publishers cut back on the development of new titles, and fewer new games meant fewer ad dollars. Predictably, the gaming magazine category saw its share of fallout.

IDG's Gamestar lasted only a few issues, while Xbox Nation became primarily an online entity. But Andy Swanson, publisher of PSM: 100% Independent PlayStation 2 (PSM) Magazine and Official Xbox Magazine (OXM), isn't dwelling over the ad-page declines of the two Future Network USA titles.

"2004 was the year after the peak with this current generation of products," Swanson explains. "What happened was both natural and normal."

Despite the slip in pages, PSM and OXM diversified their ad bases during the last year. Long successful with endemic advertisers, the mags added brands like McDonald's, Progressive Insurance, and Cingular Wireless.

Each of the 13 annual issues comes bundled with a DVD, which offer entertainment entities the chance to sponsor trailers, game tips, and other content. The reason that PSM and OXM will remain top-of-mind among mag buyers hasn't changed, of course. "We get the 18-to-34 male who's not watching TV anymore," Swanson notes. In the months ahead, look for the titles to push forward with events, and strive for more of a presence among automotive and apparel advertisers.

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