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Magazines re-invent themselves.

Some 500 magazine publishers, editors and circulators met in New York City on January 29 for the Direct Marketing Association's 17th annual Circulation Day. Themed "The New Circulation Reality," the day featured 49 speakers from a wide variety of magazine companies, as well as a sprinkling from newsletter companies.

Readers Digest has redesigned its graphics and rethought its editorial to keep up with the culture. The world's largest circulation magazine added columnists for the first time to give the pub its own voice. Uninspired department names such as News from Medicine have been retagged, while signature columns such as Laughter in Uniform have retained their familiar titles, look, and feel.

At Folio: magazine, the strategy is survival. Folio: is to the magazine industry what this newsletter is to the newsletter industry; it could easily be titled The Magazine on Magazines. Major cuts in staff and budget have created enough breathing room for new editor-in-chief Kable Nauhaus to shape an essentially brand new publication serving an industry that has been beaten down by sweeps scandals, dismal newsstand performance, and free-falling ad revenues.

Some publishers are thriving in tough times. Popular Science has seen ads up 51 percent, direct marketing up 20 percent, and renewals up 17 percent. PopSci has made a relatively minor rate base adjustment from 1.55 million down to 1.45 million. For this title born in the 19th century, the focus is on reinvigorating, not re-inventing. The magazine is by its nature about innovation, a subject matter that sparks the imagination. Who would think by the book's subtitle--"Fuel for the Curious Mind"-that it has been around for 131 years?

At the newsletter company Paperloop, the focus is on leveraging every customer touch-point. Every bill, renewal notice, e-mail, web hit, customer call, trade show contact, etc. is treated as an opportunity to make an offer or get some information.

Paperloop, whose six newsletters serve the paper mill industry, has a noteworthy approach to lists. They don't rent lists, because they already have the name and address of every paper mill in the world. Paper mills don't tend to move very often, but their managers change jobs as fast as those in any other industry. Every Paperloop employee has the job of asking about and reporting industry job changes to the in-house list manager.

In spite of challenging times in the economy in general and in the magazine industry in particular, executives at Circ Day were remarkably upbeat and positive in anticipation of recovery and a return to growth and profitablity.

Mark E. Johnson, copywriter, can be reached at 603-465-3888 or at
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Author:Johnson, Mark E.
Publication:The Newsletter on Newsletters
Date:Feb 15, 2003
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