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Packaging Alaska's men.

Packaging Alaska's Men

If Alaska Men USA magazine, the Anchorage-based publication featuring facts, amateur photos and phone numbers of available single men, is still on news-stands in April, it will have done what most new magazines only dream of: It will have succeeded in reaching the enviable four-year milestone.

The marriage of a hot concept and non-stop media attention has done more for the family-run, bimonthly magazine than all the investment capital and advertising revenue a publisher could hope for. This year AlaskaMen was renamed AlaskaMen USA when it began featuring men from other parts of the United States.

According to a study completed in 1988, only one in five new magazines is still publishing four years after presenting its first issue. "The magazines disappear from the newsstands as quickly as they come, says Samir Husni, head of the magazine program at the University of Mississippi and author of the study.

According to a recent story in Time magazine, some 2,800 new magazines debuted during the past decade, 584 in the past year alone. Many, including struggling monthlies, the seemingly successful Psychology Today and the slick, award-winning 7 Days, have folded. The article goes on to say that magazines filling "less glamorous market niches are flourishing," including publications that cater to gold lovers and model railroad enthusiasts.

"It's quite possible that what she's done is fall into a very unique niche," says John Klingel, a magazine consultant based in California. "The miracles do happen but they're very rare."

Consider the magazine's vital statistics: Owner and publisher Susie Carter, along with husband dave, launched AlaskaMen in April 1987 from the couple's kitchen table. Five thousand copies of the first issue were printed and sold at Anchorage-area newsstands. Three years later, Carter says the magazine's international circulation is approaching 200,000, and she hopes to more than double that number by the end of the year.

A $30,000 initial family investment has multiplied into gross annual revenues of more than $1 million. Frequency of publication has increased from quarterly to bimonthly installments, and other magazines, including one featuring single women, are in the works.

The magazine's 900-prefix phone service, through whcih women can listen to and leave recorded messages for featured men, is in use up to 20 hours a day and is a major revenue source for the magazine. After a single appearance on the "Joan Rivers Show" earlier this year, the magazine's toll-free 800 phone service received an estimated 12,000 inquiries over the next three days, according to Carter's business assistant.

All that without the magazine spending a dime on advertising. "We haven't really spent any advertising dollars at all," says Carter. "We have not reached that point where we really need to advertise. In fact, we are in demand so much for television shows, I really am very selective ... I just don't want to wear out the media."

Judging from the volume and nature of newspaper and magazine clippings featuring Carter and her Alaska men, the media has yet to grow weary. Last year the prestigious Wall Street Journal featured a front page story on Carter and her publication. Add to that mention in Family Business, Cosmopolitan, Life, Entrepreneur and People magazines, spots on the Oprah Winfrey and Joan Rivers shows and the scripting of a two-hour prime-time movie based on alaskaMen USA.

Carter has been negotiating an agreement with an Outside firm willing to invest in the publication and says an announcement is expected soon. She says the injection of new capital will be used first to improve the quality of AlaskaMen USA. Other goals include developing subscription campaigns and possibly launching more media projects.

Carter and her 20 full-time employmees are developing promotional ideas and a 30-second TV spot geared at boosting paid subscriptions. So far, the magazine's circulation has been almost excusively newsstand-driven. Cruises featuring Alaska men have been offered and nightshirts, shorts and sweatsuits emblazoned with "AlaskaMen" are advertised in the magazine. A line of gifts for men is in the works.

Carter says that contrary to the perceptions of some, the magazine is not a matchmaking device. She describes it as a way of introducing single men and women who are looking for a new relationship or a change in lifestyle.

"It's totally a straight magazine," she adds. "I get letters from ministers of all religions congratulating us on upgrading the single situation because we're so staight and we're not into the Sunday Singles type of thing."

Carter believes readers of her magazine are looking for traditional, old-fashioned values, either for themselves or for other single friends and relatives. "My first idea (target audience) was just generally single women," she says. "Now I see that it has gone beyond single women, that grandmothers buy it, mothers buy it. They buy it for their children or their grandchildren.

"Business associates buy it. Business offices buy it for all the secretaries. It's like a token thing for the secretarieS. Instead of flowers they get a subscription and everybody shares it. It's amazing."

According to Carter, the majority of the magazine's readers are career women between the ages of 28 and 55. She estimates 95 percent of them live Outside.

News about the males of the 49th state has been good for Alaska tourism, Carter adds. She notes some women visit featured men just to check out the state and that travel agencies are using the "AlaskaMen" theme in marketing cruises to Alaska.

Carter says she's heard from successful career women who have sold their businesses and moved to alaska, either to meet their man or simply to re-invest their money and start new lives on their own.

And not all the excitement has been confined to the United States. Carter has traveled to Europe where she says the British Broadcasting Corp. is doing a show on AlaskaMen USA and to the Soviet Union where she recruited Soviet men interested in being featured in the magazine.

Carter says women from around the world are interested in the magazine: "We have women who subscribe in Russia and in china, communists China of all places, Guam, Antarctica, France, South Africa, Australia."

Timing and Talent. In her forties and the mother of nine children, Carter had no journalism or publishing experience before launching AlaskaMen. In fact, her only business experience came from 25 years of running an in-home day care center, first in California and Oregon and then in Anchorage.

After more than two years of trying to run both the day care center and the magazine, Carter and her husband closed the center late last year. She notes she'll be forever grateful to the single fathers who used her in-home business and provided the spark for AlaskaMen USA.

Their search for single women got Carter thinking and, in time, husband and wife decided to produce a magazine featuring available Alaska men. A friend in New York did some free market research on whether the idea would sell. His assessment: Go for it.

"We had no idea it was going to go wild the way it did," says Carter. "We've been trying to analyze it, because I feel it's succeeded in spite of me, because of my lack of experience." She explains that certainly the product was introduced at the right time and through her family happening to be in the right place.

But Carter also acknowledges the role of her personality in the publication's success: "I'm a mother and I would like every issue to be the kind my own children could read and I won't be embarrassed. I think that appeals to mothers everywhere."

Carter says building the business one step at a time and surrounding herself with employees she considers top-notch helped to launch the magazine that claims responsibility for some 30 marriages, including that of Carter's father. She adds, "It makes me feel really good. It's doing what it's supposed to do."
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Title Annotation:Susie Carter's AlaskaMen magazine
Author:Hill, Robin Mackey
Publication:Alaska Business Monthly
Article Type:company profile
Date:Oct 1, 1990
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