Monetizing Your Partnership
The Week turned a nice little circulation building program with 25,000-member business association The Conference Board into a more intricate relationship that eventually included subscription sales, marketing events and ad sales for the association’s member magazine. And by getting its hooks into an elite association of high-level enterprise business executives, The Week effectively competed for advertising with business publications two to three-times its circulation.
The Conference Board is a membership organization of C-level executives that provides research and events on worldwide business trends. Members include Alcoa, TIAA-CREF, Dow Corning and McKinsey & Co. Justin Smith, president of The Week, knew a partnership would reap benefits if only for circulation.
“Our thinking was if we could get the top leaders of corporate America reading The Week it’s going to have all sorts of benefits for us,” says Smith. “That’s been the overall theme of our marketing strategy—seeding the magazine among influentials and opinion leaders across the country.”
Thanks to its apolitical positioning and aggregated, time-saving news format, The Week was accepted as a member benefit for The Conference Board. The initial partnership shipped about 6,000 copies of the magazine, with the costs, about 80 cents to a dollar each, eaten by The Week. When the three-month trial ended with members craving more issues, Smith knew he had a winner—and some leverage to shift the partnership into higher gear.
From there, The Conference Board agreed to pay $1 per issue, ultimately signing on for 20,000 copies. “Because the nature of this audience was so elusive and so premium we decided to go for a heavily discounted, but allowable under ABC rules, bulk pricing structure,” says Smith.
That elusive audience effectively gave The Commerce Board its first magazine partnership in its 90-year history, according to Smith. That put the magazine on a level with BusinessWeek, Fortune and Forbes, which also court an executive audience.
Smith also leveraged the deepening relationship into a marketing event program that attracts 250 high-level executives to small, panel-led discussion seminars across the country. Event sponsorships are bundled with display advertising schedules. Smith broadly estimates that the partnership resulted in $1 million in incremental ad revenue for 2006.
Finally, Smith arranged for The Week’s sales staff to take over sales responsibilities for The Conference Board’s member magazine Across the Board, which has a six-time frequency and 25,000 circulation.
Smith declined to reveal specifics on the pay-off except to say revenues are shared. “Our sales force is selling advertising in both magazines and packaging it together so you have this two-book opportunity against this very elusive target,” he says.