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Lessiter Pubs adds value, and makes some money, with product guides.

Offhand it would be difficult to think of two newsletters more dissimilar in audience and content than No-Till Farmer for farmers and Winning Hoops for basketball coaches, but Wisconsin-based Lessiter Publications Inc. is having success in both markets with adding product guides to their subscription newesletters.

Since I wrote recently that newsletter publishers might be well advised to avoid the ad-supported magazine business, it's always refreshing to do a story on "Well, maybe I'm just wrong."

It's tempting to assume that, if product guides can be successful for two newsletters in markets this dissimilar, anyone ought to be able to do it. But like many things in life, it may not be as easy as it looks.

The product guides for the two titles are very similar in appearance: 4-color, glossy stock, 72 pages, and packed with ads. They are basically identical in appearance to a newsstand magazine. To date Lessiter has done two for No-Till Farmer and one for Winning Hoops, but the plan is for both to be twice-annual publications.

Profit centers

I spoke with executive vice president Mike Lessiter, who confirmed that both products have been profitable on their own from ad sales. The Winning Hoops guide had 25 advertisers including three full pages from NIKE while the No-Till Farmer guide weighed in with 47 advertisers.

A caveat for others to consider (a bit like the TV car ads with the small-type disclaimers "Professional driver on closed course."): Lessiter's background is in trade magazines; he was editor of two before joining his father, Frank, in the newsletter business.

(Lessiter Pubs is run like a family farm--founder Frank Lessiter is president and Pam Lessiter is vice president.)

"I probably know more about that business than newsletter publishing." Lessiter also publishes the Farrier's Journal, an ad-supported magazine, giving them experience in that arena.

The product guides, Mike notes, have the same type of editorial content as the newsletters but require more planning and lead time.

"The advertisers knew of the titles of our publications, but they had never received an advertising solicitation from us previously," Mike says. "I believe we have an advantage because of our audience of paid subscribers (the competition in both markets is from controlled circulation titles). Our numbers are not comparatively large, but they are pre-qualified by spending their money to buy the newsletters."

Subscriber benefit, too

"It's also great for our subscribers because the product guide is a free benefit for them--a glossy magazine of interest at no cost as a part of their regular subscription," Mike says.

In fact, Frank Lessiter dropped me a nice note about my recent NL/NL article about Rachael Ray's EveryDay magazine's missed marketing opportunities (9/8/06). Frank wrote, "That made me realize we haven't done a good enough job of promoting these twice-a-year product guides as a bonus for paid subscriptions. We're going to correct that quickly."

Lessiter's advantage over other newsletter publishers' efforts

Several publishers over time have reported lackluster (at best) results from catalogs of their products. Lessiter Pubs, however, is also doing well by binding in a 32-page catalog of other products into the regular issue of Winning Hoops. Evidently basketball coaches are true information sponges with almost limitless appetites for stuff like the front page article in the current issue, "Proven Methods for Attacking Full-Court Pressure."

Lessiter Publications, P.O. Box 624, Brookfield, WI 53008, 262-782-4480, fax 262-782-1252,
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Title Annotation:Ancillaries; Lessiter Publications Inc.
Author:Goss, Fred
Publication:The Newsletter on Newsletters
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 23, 2006
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