'Spry' Publisher Optimistic Despite Tough Times

Two weeks ago, the Publishing Group of America launched Spry, a new newspaper-distributed magazine targeting women ages 30+ with content about healthy lifestyles and fitness. The magazine launched on Sept. 11, with a circulation of 9 million, four days before the stock market began its meltdown. But despite the grim tidings on Wall Street, PGA President and CEO Dick Porter remains confident about its prospects.

"Actually, a downturn can benefit magazines like Spry," Porter says, distinguishing between monthly newspaper-distributed titles and other consumer magazines.

That's because newspaper-distributed mags accumulate their audience much more rapidly than a conventional monthly, which can take up to three months to build its full audience through pass-along readership. "The speed to market is probably even more important in a down economy," Porter says, "because marketers just don't have the luxury to take their time and slowly build brand awareness."



This gives newspaper-distributed mags a leg up with categories like packaged-goods, Porter said, as marketers come under pressure to show their big retail partners fast, consistent sales turnover--or risk their products being taken off the shelves. This pressure can only increase during an economic downturn.

"If you're a chief marketing officer for a packaged-goods manufacturer, you're looking for that product to move this week. You can't wait three months for someone to see your ad, especially in today's economy," he adds.

The time pressure is best illustrated by Wal-Mart, the nation's largest retailer, which typically only gives packaged-goods companies two months to prove the viability of new products, "Three, if you're lucky," Porter says, before showing them the door.

The need for quick return on investment is true of other categories in addition to packaged-goods in a down market.

"If you're selling insurance, you're keeping track of how many phone calls you're getting," said Porter. "In travel, if you're a state visitors' bureau, you're looking at generating leads, and how many people are visiting your state."

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