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 mediapost.com website.) The first to do this was Yahoo.com 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 Travelocity.com’s Travelocity Magazine, Garden.com’s Garden Escape, and Space.com’s Space.com Illustrated, Expedia.com’s Expedia Travels, and Nerve.com’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 Yahoo.com, while Garden Escape is practically a catalogue for supplies that can all be ordered online at Garden.com. 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.