For Small Mags, It's Personal

PHOENIX, ARIZONA -- Independent magazine publishers need to insinuate themselves into social transactions in the communities they are targeting to succeed, according to a panel of executives from niche titles and subscription marketers talking on the first day of the American Magazine Conference.

The Sunday afternoon panel, moderated by Anne Fine, the senior vice president of consumer marketing for the Magazine Publishers of America, brought together Fabio Freyre, CEO of Latina Media Ventures, David Lusterman, publisher of String Letter Publishing, and Sue Webb, vice president of publisher development for the Synapse Group. Although their magazines inhabit rather different niches, Freyre and Lusterman urged remarkably similar approaches.

These approaches might not work for mass market consumer mags like People, but both executives said they have worked "amazingly well" for them. Describing some of the challenges confronting Latina--which targets acculturated Latina women in the U.S. with beauty and fashion, literature, music and other cultural news--Freyre noted that the demo is large but "rather elusive." As a result, Latina's mantra is "take the product to the marketplace," including partnerships with Latino cable television networks and--most interesting--regular appearances at the nation's largest Latino nightclubs.



"Some of you may have heard of a club in New York called the Copacabana," Freyre quipped. "The Copa will draw maybe 4,000 Latina women over a Friday, Saturday, Sunday," and according to Freyre, "Anyone who's dancing at the Copa... is clearly our audience." Latina's small circulation department, numbering just three employees, visits nightclubs at cities across the country to sell subscriptions. The magazine also hosts a series of fairs called "Latina Nation" in big cities, luring subscribers with culturally relevant events.

Lusterman's Strings magazine targets another hard-to-reach group: stringed instrument musicians. Within this demo, the most valuable subset for advertisers--young musicians just starting out, with preferences still unformed--was the hardest to reach of all, leaving Strings out of tune. At the same time, Lusterman recalled, the mag's marketers knew that many readers were middle school and high school music teachers who faced a common problem: the difficulty of retaining students through the hormonal teenage years.

So Strings created a new publication, Teen Strings, targeting the younger demo with hipper content, and offered it to music teachers at a discount. By inserting the magazine in this social interaction, "we've been able to engage thousands of music teachers around the country." In fact, Lusterman concluded, "paid circ on Teen Strings has already exceeded paid circ on Strings."

Although her company sells subscriptions to many mass market publications, Webb said a new social sales strategy had "niche products outperforming much bigger titles." Synapse has partnered with a variety of retailers to offer discounted subscriptions to consumers at the point of sale--the cash register. When a customer asks to use a credit or debit card, the cashier asks whether they'd like to try up to three magazines with the first three months free. According to Webb, the program works especially well with niche titles, and "we believe this is going to be a huge, several millions sub source."

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