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Linda Zebian

We Could All Learn A Little Something From Gq, And I'M Not Talking Shirts

Linda Zebian Consumer - 02/01/2007-03:00 AM

Yesterday I interviewed Scott Carlis, executive director of marketing at Conde Nast’s GQ, for an event marketing story for the March issue of Magazine Event Strategies. GQ really has it right. It knows its audience and it knows what its readers want and what forms of media they are most responsive to.

GQ has not one, but two Web sites, and GQ Connects. The GQ Web site is fairly traditional— chock full of editorial content and ads. But it’s the GQ Connects Web site that’s leading edge. This completely promotional site is where GQ readers can go to find out about promotions, contests and events, get style advice from an expert and download weekly podcasts.

GQ Mobile is a huge part of the GQ Connects site. The magazine polled its readers and found that 100 percent of them own a cell phone so it’s no wonder that after it launched in March of last year, GQ Mobile became one of the magazine’s strongest event marketing tools. GQ sends “text-vites” to readers who submit their mobile phone numbers online, keeping them up to speed on GQ’s latest events and contests. They extend their marketing efforts even further into vertical marketing programs by targeting various regions sorting by area code.

Sure a publishing house like Conde Nast has the resources and funding to launch new initiatives at their leisure, but mobile programs are quickly reaching medium and smaller-sized publishers. The truth is, if your readers have cell phones, then you should be looking into mobile options that best suit you and your advertisers.

Check out the March issue of MES when it comes out next month to see how mobile marketing has paid off for GQ, and what other tools they use for marketing and promoting their events.

Linda Zebian

On Working With Competitors

Linda Zebian Sales and Marketing - 01/24/2007-03:00 AM

Talk to any smart magazine marketer, and they will tell you that working with competitors is one of their top marketing methods. They trade subscriber lists with competitive magazines and even buy booths at competitor’s industry events. Most magazine marketers understand the value of working with the other industry powerhouses, whether they have a directly competitive magazine or not. Being a part of an industry means having relationships with all associations, organizations and vendors, and if you are confident enough about your product, you won’t feel threatened by a little healthy competition.

According to the latest installment of Folio: Publishing Technology, Reed Business Information has launched a new vertical b-to-b search portal. Though the portal, called, was originally designed to drive traffic to Reed’s Web properties, it has become an open platform for all publishers, including direct competitors, to participate in for free.

Publishers who continue to operate without working with competitors need a reality check. Reed has it right. With the loads of free information available on the Internet, especially in the b-to-b space, it’s all about getting the information to readers in the most efficient way possible, and the way to do that, is through a solid search function online.

Linda Zebian

Building Your Back-End Web Staff

Linda Zebian emedia and Technology - 01/17/2007-03:00 AM

I’m writing a story for the February issue on the division of online labor. I’ve chatted with some companies who are really taking care of back-end Web responsibilities the right way—Time Inc., New York Magazine, Advanstar. I have a feeling though, that most publishers, especially smaller ones, are doing it wrong.

Staffing your technology department can be pricey. Computer guys don’t get paid peanuts. For example, an XML coder can charge $45 to $65 an hour to code content for various digital uses. But it’s important for publishing company owners to face the reality that they are going to have to spend the money on hiring the right people to run their Web sites and e-media properties. That means building a department that is devoted entirely to creating digital products, that works directly with editorial, sales, marketing and circ.

Don’t misconstrue the concept, either: IT and e-media are not one in the same. You don’t want the guy that sets up your voicemail to design your Web site, it’s just not a smart business move. At the bare minimum, publishers should invest in at least one strong e-media manager. That person may cost a pretty penny, but they will be well worth it. From there he or she can train college grads and give them the skills they need to drive your Web properties to their maximum capacity.

Linda Zebian

On The Magazine-Cable Network Partnership

Linda Zebian Consumer - 01/11/2007-03:00 AM

Being the reality-TV junkie I am, I couldn’t help but notice the abundance of cable TV programs that have partnerships with consumer magazines. Networks like Bravo, which teams up with Cooking Light and Conde Nast’s ELLE for hit reality shows “Top Chef” and “Project Runway,” generate unprecedented PR for the magazines that are featured on the programs.

“The Hills,” an MTV reality spin-off of the hugely popular “Laguna Beach,” follows the life of main “character” Lauren Conrad as she interns at Teen Vogue in Los Angeles. And the network’s latest reality installment, which debuted last Sunday, “I’m From Rolling Stone,” has Yann Wenner’s face on overdrive across numerous ads and promotions.

Using successful (though sometimes cheesy) reality TV as a branding outlet to reach consumers is genius. These cable networks allow the marketers at these publications to reach their demographic from an entirely different angle and there is no better way to build buzz and credibility around a brand. Bravo! More...

Linda Zebian

Seventeen Replaces Atoosa

Linda Zebian Consumer - 01/03/2007-03:00 AM

Seventeen has finally found someone to replace Atoosa Rubenstein, the former editor in chief of the Hearst teen mag who quit in November to launch her own teen-centered Web business, write a book and start a consultancy specializing in the youth market. After several months and plenty of gossip surrounding the search for a replacement, CosmoGirl executive editor Ann Shoket has been selected to assume the role of filling Rubenstein’s shoes.

Although Rubenstein received a lot of flack during her three years as editor for her Today Show-MTV-talking head-My Space enthusiast-Spice Girl image, I think Shoket should strive to be like her predecessor. As the editor of Seventeen magazine, it is Shoket’s job to be a role model for her readers, and get herself out there as much as possible to build the brand. Rubenstein became the face of the publication, putting herself on every media outlet to reach her target audience. Isn’t that what consumer magazine editor’s strive to do every day? More...

Linda Zebian

Launching A Digital-Only Magazine

Linda Zebian emedia and Technology - 12/27/2006-03:00 AM

A new magazine has hit the women’s lifestyle market but this one is exclusively digital. VivMag is a digital magazine led by former editor in chief of Shape, Anne Russel. It’s one thing if an established magazine decides to offer a digital edition, or decides to stop print production but keep a Web site like Elle Girl and Teen People, but launching a new magazine in a strictly digital format could be risky.

Regardless of how good this digital magazine is (I tried to download it to check it out, but after a number attempts were blocked by my computer, I gave up), they might want to tread lightly. Digital magazines are now more than ever being labeled as ancillary and complementary products to print. At the recent Digital Magazine Conference, a number of magazine publishers were skeptical regarding the lack of return on their digital magazine investments.

Digital magazines are a hybrid media—taking the best aspects of print and the Web and joining them together to create an online magazine experience. For established brands, going digital is another investment in the brand, but for a new magazine like this, I wonder if finding an interested audience and equally as interested advertisers might become an issue. More...

Linda Zebian

Custom Pubs: Where The Money Is

Linda Zebian Consumer - 12/20/2006-03:00 AM

The Custom Publishing Council earlier this week announced that custom publishing spending increased by more than 18 percent in 2006. This year was the fifth consecutive year that this area of publishing experienced growth.

The study, which was done along with Publications Management, reported custom publishing spending now accounts for 24 percent of the total amount companies allocate for marketing, advertising and communications. Thirty-nine percent of the companies surveyed said they planned to increase their custom publishing spending in 2007, while 48 percent plan on maintaining spending.

There is no doubt that custom publishing has become a huge money maker in the publishing industry. Brands are looking to make personal connections with their customer through the power of printed materials, as well as e-publications. Custom publishing budgets allocated for e-publications has risen 35.5 percent since first measured in 2001, according to the study.

Why is it that the marketers at these companies look to custom publishing so much? Custom publishers are experts in design, sales, writing and production. It’s a no-brainer for these corporations to outsource to publishing industry experts, spending less than they would on an in-house staff while keeping all the hassles of publication production out of their hair. As long as new companies and organizations develop, and new products, services and programs are introduced, custom publishing will continue to grow.

Linda Zebian

On The Value Of Events

Linda Zebian Sales and Marketing - 12/13/2006-03:00 AM

This month, FOLIO: launched a new print newsletter called Magazine Event Strategies. Currently, about half (53 %) of FOLIO: subscribers work for organizations that produced at least one event in the last 12 months. The category is the second most-anticipated area of growth behind e-media, according a FOLIO: and Readex Research survey. MES offers tips on cost cutting, effective launch event tactics and behind the scenes looks into some of the most successful (and not so successful) conferences, tradeshows, parties and virtual events programs out there.

Kerry Smith, the president and CEO of Red 7 Media, has been working on the idea for this newsletter for a while now—inspired by his experience publishing Event Marketer and FOLIO: magazines—and he chose me to manage the details and assist him in getting it off the ground.

After working on the 16-page, ad-free newsletter, I too have a better understanding of the impact of live events. Kerry is passionate about the topic for a reason: Readers want more than just a page to read and a Web site to search. Face-to-face contact is what they yearn for and, beyond the pages of FOLIO:, there are no fully dedicated resources available to magazine event marketers looking for strategies on how to run their events better. Beyond that, magazine events can be huge revenue streams for publishers if they are executed correctly and tactfully. More...

Linda Zebian

Are Association Magazines Just Flashier Custom Pubs?

Linda Zebian Association and Non-Profit - 11/20/2006-03:00 AM

Last week at the SNAP conference in Chicago, keynote speaker, Roper Public Affairs & Media’s Justin Greeves, cited a 2005 study done by Roper on behalf of the Custom Publishing Council that reveals information about the custom publication reading habits of Americans. Greeves gave the impression that the results of the study, which reflected a generally positive attitude toward custom publications, could easily be allied to association magazines, as both types of publications are produced by a sponsoring company toward a targeted audience.

I questioned Greeves’ references and their relevance, wondering if the association publishing audience around me was doing the same thing. Finally an attendee asked Greeves if he thought of association magazines as passive member benefits. The audience stirred, and Greeves was caught in a pickle, answering the question to the best of his ability by trying to show the correlation between the results of the study and association titles.

While some associations work with custom publishers to produce their magazines, the publications they create are not marketing-based vehicles for a particular brand. To use a custom publishing study to explain habits of association magazine readers seems like a stretch. It’s comparable to a keynote at an ABM meeting presenting a research study done on the habits Conde Nast readers. I was surprised SNAP did not choose a more relevant topic for a session that sets the tone for the entire conference.

Linda Zebian

More On Snap Keynote

Linda Zebian Association and Non-Profit - 11/20/2006-03:00 AM

Ever since my last blog post, I've been trying to find out who asked Justin Greeves the tricky question at the SNAP conference. I discovered that it was Peter Banks, founder of Banks Publishing and former publisher of the American Diabetes Association's Diabetes Forecast. Here's what Banks had to say about his question:

"I asked the question because I thought Greeves' talk had the unfortunate effect of lumping together association membership magazines with giveaway custom publications from companies. The distinction is important in how we think about accountability and return on investment in association publications. If we think of them as custom publications meant to enhance member loyalty—and many associations do seem to see their publications in this way—then the publication is seen as a cost center and there’s little attention paid to leveraging its impact. The only discussion tends to be about cutting costs. If, on the other hand, we see the magazine as a subscription-based product, then we often treat the publication as a potential profit center and begin to manage finances and operations to maximize return to the association. Greeves tended to reinforce the notion that association publications are member giveaways. They are not. They can be the most important strategic assets associations have, and they need to managed as such. They should be managed as profit centers, not dismissed as cost centers. "

Linda Zebian

Radar's Resilience

Linda Zebian Consumer - 10/18/2006-02:00 AM

Radar magazine has announced it will re-launch in February. We are all aware this is the publication’s third attempt to launch and the scrutiny and skepticism has already begun to stir around the industry.

Regardless of its boomeranging trajectory, launching and folding in the same year, there has got to be a reason this magazine keeps coming back.

Perhaps we should applaud the magazine’s buoyancy, or perhaps they should just give it up. I fear the magazine will struggle as it returns to a market that is over-tapped, especially considering competition from other Web sites and gossip blogs, where everyone and their uncle is writing and commenting on what is happening in pop culture. On top of that, the brand has to reestablish itself and offer something new because obviously whatever they were doing before wasn’t quite working.

I wonder, does it deserve to come back? How many times is too many? And, most importantly, has it lost its credibility? More...

Linda Zebian

On The Pr/Edit Relationship

Linda Zebian Editorial - 09/22/2006-02:00 AM

Tension between writers and PR pros has always existed. PR people love us until we push them for information or make a mistake, and editors ignore PR people until we need them to do something for us. Some words of advice from someone who has experience on both sides of the fence:

PR People: Have patience with your editorial comrades. Most of us are under a lot of pressure and sometimes we simply don't have the time to respond to your e-mail. We understand that you are just doing your jobs­­­â€”but know that we are looking for what's fresh and buzz-worthy. We don't want to cover something that's been published by everyone else. Although it may not always seem like it, most of us do appreciate all that you do for us. Without you, a lot more of our time would be wasted scrambling to find information. I'd like to thank the many publishing PR people who help me on a daily basis, including all those at The Rosen Group, Four-Corners and so many in-house communication managers.

Editors: Be nice to PR people, and be honest with them. If you're not interested in what they are trying to sell you, take a minute to explain to them what you are looking for, instead of ignoring them or hanging up the phone (you know who you are). Plus, you never know when you're going to need a PR person to turn something around for you when you've got 20 minutes until deadline, and a strong relationship will help get the job done.