FOLIO: 40: Milt Jones
Owner, Publisher | Palm Springs Life
Why him: He took over Palm Springs Life’s existing $100,000 debt and turned it into a company worth $14 million.
More than 40 years ago, Milt Jones bought out the owner of Palm Springs Life for $100,000 and an assumption of debt. The former radio ad salesman had a plan to save the magazine that was losing money with every printed copy. "The people who owned the magazine before me were wealthy, so they underwrote the losses," says Jones. "I had to stop a lot of the foolishness going on and run it like a business."
Two-and-a-half years later, Palm Springs Life was in the black and has been there ever since. "I had the choice to make it cheaper to produce, cut down the size and reduce the paper quality," says Jones. "But I decided to go the other way and make it a more quality magazine, and that formula worked."
Desert Publishing, the company Jones founded and now co-owns with his son Franklin, publishes 25 titles and has a hard bound division called Guest Life, that brings publications into 50,000 hotel rooms in six cities nationwide. It also has Jones Agency, which specializes in public relations, marketing and media planning. Yearly, Desert publications bring in between $13 million and $14 million in sales for all of its entities, not including a deal it has with Palm Springs International Airport for signage and back-lit display advertising. "I don’t have a huge bottom line," says Jones. "We don’t strive for a huge profit percentage because we’re family-owned. We put a lot of our profits back into our publications to keep the quality."
Palm Springs Life had a circulation of 600 when Jones bought it in 1965. Today it has a paid circulation of more than 20,000 and has seen a 14 percent increase in both ad revenue and pages since 2002.
The foundation of local selling relies on reputation. As part of a community, a city and regional magazine needs to deliver on promises made to customers. "There needs to be a confidence factor between the salesman and the customer," says Jones. "We have eight salespeople, many of whom have been here for more than 25 years."
Flagship Palm Springs Life has seen a 14 percent increase in both ad revenue and pages since 2002.