From a Journal to a Magazine

The Magazine Group helps The American Association of Community Colleges increase advertising by 50 percent.

In 1981, The American Association of Community Colleges was the second client to sign on with newly founded custom publishing company The Magazine Group. In 25 years the association’s official publication, Community College Journal, hadn’t changed much and the association knew it was time.

Rather than redesign some aspects of the publication, Richard Creighton, principal of The Magazine Group, worked with the client on a complete re-launch. "We wanted to take it from an academic publication to a mainstream, practice-oriented, consumer-style publication," says Creighton. "It made it more attractive to advertisers and more useful to readers."

The result was a new partnership with an advertising sales firm, which led to a 50 percent increase in advertising revenues in the first quarter of 2007. "Sometimes non-profits move more cautiously," says Creighton. "We were able to demonstrate the world of potential advertisers."

Creighton hired higher education experts to serve as editors and created a new look and a new focus on business and technology topics for a broader audience. "Half of the content originates from the client and half of the content comes from us," says Creighton. "We act as the editorial managers. We almost treat it like a private company."

The association is also working to integrate print content with the Web and plans to use revenues generated from increased advertising to invest into the Web site, adding podcasts and video in coming months. "We guaranteed them that we would keep revenue on a growing track and that they would not have to put any significant investment in the relaunch," says Creighton. "It’s taking some of the best practices from consumer newsstand publishing and adapting those principles to non-profit publishing."

Project: Community College Journal
Objective: Turn around sluggish ad sales; turn an academic journal into a more practical, consumer-oriented publication; integrate the magazine with the association’s newspaper and Web site.

Penton’s Customized Webcasts

A training-based Webcast project delivers valuable market insight and rock-solid leads for an important advertiser.

Penton’s Custom Media division has been producing Webcasts for the last seven years;long enough for group director Joe Pulizzi to note that they’ve formed the bedrock of the group’s e-media strategy. "The Webcasts have really launched our e-media strategy," he says. "We were able to launch our e-book concepts off of that, our Web expo concepts, and our microsite concepts."

One project is a series of Webcasts for York, an air conditioning manufacturer and advertiser in Contracting Business. York, which had formed an educational division to assist its sales reps and distributors with print and online materials, signed on in 2006 for a 12-part monthly Webcast training series. The series was open to the entire market, not just York reps and distributors. "There’s both a customer maintenance and retention goal here," says Tim Stark, e-Media director for Penton Custom Media.

Stark’s team provided the project management and coordination of the event, including registration pages, direct e-mail invitations, banner ads and presenter materials. York simply provided a logo and copy for a 30 to 60-second spot for each presentation.

The registration portal collected about 1,300 registrations with an average of 950 people registered for each Webcast. York received the registration leads and summary reports that detailed attendance, exit survey results, and a live polling feature run during each session. "York gets a detailed report on exactly who answered," says Stark. "It’s not just getting name and e-mail. York can create a customized sales strategy to a specific person."

Project: York Webcast series.
Objective: York, a manufacturer of air conditioning units and an important advertiser in Penton Media’s Contracting Business, needed to bolster its education program for its distributors and sales reps. Penton Custom Media created a 12-month Webcast training series to extend the York brand and capture leads.

Planting Seeds

A retail alliance seeks custom guidance.

In the spring of 2006, ECGC, an alliance of 12 independent garden centers formed to pool purchasing and marketing resources, decided to launch a premium customer communications program that included a magazine targeting advertisers and select consumer households.

ECGC produced the first version in-house but tapped custom publisher The Pohly Company in the fall of 2006 to revamp the program. A new issue debuts in April. "They came to us initially looking for consulting help on editorial and production execution and from a financial point of view," says president and CEO Diana Pohly. "I think they saw the potential in the first execution and were looking for a better way to meet their objective."

The audience includes 100,000 preferred customer households. Potential advertisers fall into two groups, manufacturing vendor-advertisers that put product on garden center shelves, and affinity retailers from other market categories, such as local jewelry stores.

Three ECGC members will participate in the first issue of the magazine under Pohly, which will be called Inspirations. The magazine features 16 pages of the same content across all three issues, and some content unique to the individual ECGC sponsor.

Beyond design and edit, Pohly was tasked with developing an ad sales effort that could grow and cover costs at the same time. The magazine is shooting for a 45 to 55 percent ad-edit ratio across the three issues. "This is a reasonably complex custom program, and we’re trying to get this first part right," says Pohly. "Like any good custom program, it will take a year or two to get its legs and hit its full potential."

Project: Inspirations
Objective: Enhance a custom magazine launched by an alliance of garden center retailers to cater to preferred consumer households and affinity retailers. Fee: "Six figures."

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