Tales from the Folded: Budget Living’s Whirlwind Rise and Fall
Despite winning several awards and a rapid rise in circ, Budget Living ceased publication earlier this year. Industry insiders were surprised by the news due to its early success, but it was the quick climb that led to its downfall.
Co-founder Eric Rayman sat on a panel discussion of “If I Knew Then What I Know Now,” at MPA’s IMAG Leadership Conference in May, where moderator Bradford Fayfield, founder of Storm Mountain Press, wasted no time getting to the point: Why did you fold after seeing such success?
Rayman candidly took the audience through the rise and fall of the title, which was launched in 2002 as an offshoot of Budget Travel. He attributed the fold to two main problems: Exponential circulation growth over a short period and the “budget” stigma in the magazine’s title.
Rayman said the magazine had “tremendous initial success,” with a starting circulation of 300,000, which skyrocketed to 525,000 over a three-year period. “We believed we could compete with the other titles. Big advertisers wouldn’t look at us at 300,000, they begin at 500,000 circulations.”
But as the circ grew, so did ad rates and advertisers were not willing to pay. PIB numbers for the final issue in December 2005 closed 14 percent down from December 2004, at about $2.5 million. Ad pages were also down to just over 58, a 16 percent decrease from the previous year. “We under-budgeted the plan,” he said. “When we got up to a half million circ we knew we were competing with big publishers.”
Fellow panelist and general manager of the Belvoir Equine Group Tom Winsor said magazines with circulations of 50,000 to 100,000 do not face the same problems larger titles do. “Grow circulation to a level where it’s going to be most profitable,” he said. “Vertical magazines need to be doing about $1.5 million in revenue to be profitable.”
And with “budget” in the title, Rayman felt the magazine had to be printed on quality stock, which also took a toll.
Certain beauty and fashion advertisers were a challenge to attract, as many of them did not want to be associated with the word. Inevitably, Rayman said he was forced to either change the name of the magazine, or give up on the beauty and fashion categories for advertising sales. “The name ‘budget’ worked great with readers,” he said. “But it was a hurdle for advertisers. The name was a mixed blessing.”