No one needs reminding that 2009 was a horrible year for print. Overall, the industry was headed to shed nearly a fifth of its ad pages, although some are seeing their pages plummet by as much as 50 percent. And pages are unlikely to return to levels titles enjoyed in the past. To stay afloat, magazines are eagerly seeking new ways of growing revenue outside the traditional ad-based model.
Many of them are making headway in now-familiar ways—through their digital sites and by licensing their names on kitchen and other household products. In this special report, we profile three magazine companies that are extending their brands in less obvious ways—and making real money in the process. These efforts won’t entirely make up for those lost print ad pages, but it’s a good start—and a sign of the kind of thinking that’s begun to appear in all corners of the industry.
New York Media
When it comes to food, New York magazine knows the Big Apple. Its annual New York Taste event draws some 1,000 people who fork over $175 to $250 to sample food and drink creations from the city’s top (and often priciest) chefs and mixologists. For foodies who want a more hands-on experience, there’s the New York Culinary Experience, a cooking weekend with acclaimed chefs like Jacques Pépin and Marcus Samuelsson. This year’s Oct. 3-4 event drew more than 160 people paying $1,395—not shabby, considering the horrible economy.
Both serve up tasty profits for parent New York Media, according to New York publisher Larry Burstein. New York Taste was a money-loser until Burstein started charging advertisers for
sponsorships three years ago, then launched the Culinary Experience on the same model.
“It once was a value-added event that advertisers could participate in if they bought a certain amount of pages,” he says of New York Taste. “But it was so great, we decided to sell tiered sponsorships.” (901 Silver Tequila is now an official sponsor, along with Pepperidge Farm, of this year’s Nov. 2 event; Hoegaarden, Leffe and Stella Artois are participating sponsors.) A third event, New York Weddings, tied to New York’s twice-a-year weddings issues, also was converted to a paid from a value-added model. This year it attracted about 800 people paying at least $25 a head.
Virgin Atlantic is sponsoring this year’s Culinary Experience after supporting New York Taste two years in a row. Jim Mezoff, vp, marketing, North America, Virgin Atlantic Airways, says the event and its audience match Virgin’s target demo plus the airline’s desire to shift its marketing spend to more targeted events. “New York magazine and Virgin Atlantic share a common ethos in terms of the customers we attract,” he notes. “It’s a very optimistic event to be at, and that’s what we’re looking for.”
All told, the three events make up close to 5 percent of revenue at New York Media. But food has also paid off for the parent company online, too, with advertisers spending on flagship Nymag.com, and two new food verticals: national menu and restaurant search site MenuPages.com, which New York Media bought in July 2008; and food culture blog GrubStreet.com, which spun off from its New York roots this summer to add coverage of Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and San Francisco. Burstein says that together the sites are on track to supply one-fourth of the company’s ad revenue in 2009, helped by new online advertisers like Infiniti, Absolut and Bank of America. (New York Media doesn’t disclose revenue, but our estimate puts it in the ballpark of $70 million this year.) The digital slice is up from 16 percent in 2007 and well above the industry average, which PricewaterhouseCoopers puts at 8 percent. In a year when the magazine’s ad pages so far are down 32 percent, that’s a valuable lift.