Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Krafty Publishing

We all know technology rushes things to death…but some things don’t die so easily.

Last week, one senior ad agency told Signalwriter that printed magazines were dead; that they couldn’t deliver the audiences any more. Felix Dennis, the Brit entrepreneur who publishes titles like Maxxim, was quoted in The Economist (September 29, 2007), saying, “It’s a long, slow sunset for ink-on-paper magazines…”

Technology is banging the business model for consumer magazines pretty hard. Print magazines are increasingly more expensive to publish (there’s only so much tech can do for printing presses and the cost of newsprint). And a lot of publications that have expanded to the Worldwide Web aren’t coining money from their sites, either. Mostly.

Still, print magazines have been in the hot seat before. Mass-circ mags seemed to be dying off – then along comes something like People and changes the model. More exhaustive databanking has meant that dozens of specially targeted niches deliver profitable audiences that could be identified and persuaded to subscribe, or buy the products advertised in these specialty magazines. F’rinstance…

We get a free magazine from Kraft Foods called Food & Family. It’s a substantial, attractive publication that involves its readers in a range of subjects revolving around “delicious ideas.” Everything in it is a Kraft brand.

By publishing and sending the magazine to homemakers without charge, Kraft generates both tactical and strategic benefits for consumers and for itself.

First, the magazine stays near to hand around the house. CPG companies learned a long time ago that recipes are ever-popular and attention-getting (that’s why you see so many recipes in magazine food ads). All the recipes involve Kraft products as ingredients: a key sales driver.

Second, Kraft gets to use its huge ad bank in the magazine: it’s filled with advertising for various Kraft brands. How many print ads do you think Kraft and its business units generate in a year? I don’t know – but it’s a lot! So in addition to running the ads in other magazines, Kraft gets extra mileage from them when they appear in Food & Family.

Third, Kraft has tied the magazine to an inviting, involving website that doesn’t simply duplicate the content of the magazine. It has promotions (of course); it also has a terrific “Welcome to Our Community” section where recipes and other household tips are shared – there’s quite a bit of sharing and it’s valuable for stakeholder involvement. All in all, the package is a good one in terms of branding, content and product sales programs.

This is hardly the only example of a magazine published for and distributed to product consumers. Car companies like Ford and Chrysler, published “owner’s magazines” for years. There’s a big difference, however, between the cost of a box of Jell-O and the price sticker on a car window…and the combination of Kraft brand ingredients makes for effective cross-selling.

Magazines’ fires are only smoored, not completely extinguished. Publisher Dennis completed his Economist quote thusly: “…but sunsets can produce vast sums of money.”

They can also generate an startling amount of reader responsiveness, whether they’re highlighting a busty starlet or a breakfast omelet that the entire family will enjoy.

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