MEDIA FOR THE ONLINE WORLD - Websites Extending Their Brands to Print

Like traditional package good marketers, media has mastered the art of brand extensions. In broadcast, a short-run ‘60s series called Star Trek eventually spun off syndication stalwarts Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Star Trek: Voyager. More recently, NBC’s Cheers begot Frasier, and Fox made Melrose Place out of Beverly Hills 90210. In network cable, ESPN spawned ESPN2, ESPN Classic Sports, and ESPNEWS. The are numerous magazine examples as well, with arguably the most successful franchise being Time magazine with its progeny People, Entertainment Weekly, and InStyle.

For the last 20 or 30 years, these efforts to capitalize on brand extensions have been almost entirely within the same medium—a TV show morphing into another TV show or a magazine spinning-off to another magazine. Over the last 5 years, we’ve seen a new approach, where established media properties extend into a new medium, primarily magazines. In cable, A&E, ESPN, and Nickelodeon Networks launched their respective print versions—Biography, ESPN Magazine, and Nickelodeon Magazine. In broadcast TV, we’ve seen Oprah Winfrey and This Old House come out with O: The Oprah Magazine and This Old House Magazine.

A case can be made that in this same 5-year period, nearly every media property has extended its brand with an adjunct website. While this is true, these sites, with a few good exceptions, are not standalone content vehicles as much as they are interactive channels designed to sell more magazine subscriptions or present online programming guides. Without their more famous offline content providers, these sites might disappear quickly.

To me, the more interesting media twist is websites coming out with their own print version. (This is probably not surprising, given that you are reading this column in the print extension of our website.) The first to do this was with Yahoo! Internet Life (happy 4th anniversary, by the way). Recently though, there has been a spate of magazines hitting the newsstands based on websites, including’s Travelocity Magazine,’s Garden Escape, and’s Illustrated,’s Expedia Travels, and’s Nerve.

As standalone properties and, more importantly, as potential advertising vehicles these titles vary considerably. Yahoo! Internet Life helps readers best use the Internet, not just, while Garden Escape is practically a catalogue for supplies that can all be ordered online at Travelocity Magazine lies somewhere between those two.

In years to come, there will be a slew of sites spinning-off magazines for a number of reasons. They may want to capitalize on a successful brand, provide new cross-media buy opportunities for their current advertisers, create awareness/drive traffic to their site, provide content that may be better suited to print than online, or in some cases, be a direct feed for e-commerce.

My advice for media planners: put each magazine derived from websites through the same stringent evaluation all books receive for plan consideration. They should not be added outright because their website is on the plan.

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