THE BIG PUSH AMID HEATED COMPETITION, PUBLISHERS SEE GLIMMERS OF OPPORTUNITY FOR 1995.
Byline: Lisa Lockwood
NEW YORK--In spite of economic indicators that point to a promising start for 1995, the magazine business--a real struggle for the last few years--isn't getting any easier. As they map out business plans for next year, publishers face a host of challenges. They include: The flux at retail, particularly the upcoming merger of Federated and R.H. Macy & Co. and the eventual closing of many units. Advertisers, particularly in fashion, booking much later than they used to, with fewer long-term programs. The income tax scandal in Milan that might affect European business. The proliferation of deals and discounting among the fashion and luxury magazines. Competition from direct mail, TV and outdoor advertising. Fewer fragrance launches scheduled for 1995. "In general, this has been a good year for magazines. It's been a good year for our four magazines, but good doesn't mean easy anymore," said Kent Brownridge, senior vice president of Wenner Media, whose titles include Rolling Stone, Men's Journal, Us and Family Life. "Things changed very dramatically during the recession of 1991 and 1992," said Brownridge. "They've changed forever. We're never going back to the good old days. Everything is much more aggressive. You can no longer count on the person you play golf with. It's based on skills and aggressiveness." In an extremely competitive environment, discounting the price of ad pages has become common. Each magazine appears to cope with this predicament in its own way--either by joining the fray or compensating in other ways. "The biggest single change that's happened in publishing from the good old days--that weren't so good--to now is a much freer marketplace of negotiation between sellers and buyers of space," said Brownridge. "In the good old days, there were fixed rate cards. There is no such thing anymore. Still, there are some who say, 'We don't discount,' but the true factor is there's a marketplace today. Rate cards are like stickers in a car. People are not paying sticker prices." Condé Nast is well-known for sticking to its rate card, but it does offer incentives, generous corporate buys, key positioning and at times, rate protection. Some executives don't believe Condé Nast doesn't discount. "First of all, they are negotiating," said Wenner's Brownridge. "They find some way to meet the needs of their clients. Maybe they charge them what's on the rate card or give them a bonus page. If you open up any Condé Nast book and see a General Motors ad, I'm sure they didn't pay full price. General Motors says they won't pay higher rates in 1994 than 1993. "We're not going to lose money on any pages we sell. We're going to compete to the utmost for any business we qualify for," said Brownridge. One difficulty in publishing is that advertisers are booking their business later and later. The days of an advertiser booking an entire year or season up front are over, for now. Discussing prospects for 1995, Ronald A. Galotti, publisher of Vogue, said, "I don't think people can really forecast so easily. There was a time you could forecast for an entire season. Planning gets later and later [but] I have some really great positive signs I think are important. Galotti said the magazine's "retail business looks excellent." "Stores are planning programs and locking up their franchises," he said, adding that the return of glamour to fashion should bode well for next year. "The more style and color, the more retailers buy into it and the more advertising. The fashion business was soft for quite some time. I'm pretty optimistic, especially about our fashion business. Europe came back and was up 17 percent for 1994." Galotti said he expects 1994 to be down 4 percent in ad pages. Asked if Vogue will benefit from Revlon pulling its ads from Hearst, Galotti said, "Revlon will always be and will continue to be an important client of Vogue. I think our business will grow nicely with Revlon." "The fashion business is improving nicely. I think we'll be OK next year. The one thing that affects our business is the continuing shrinkage of the number of companies." Galotti said when he took over his post last March, Vogue was expected to be off 10 percent. "But we'll be off 4 percent. We'll do better from a profitability standpoint. I'm here 10 years at Condé Nast, give and take my exile. I've always managed my business for the long run." Harper's Bazaar believes there are "very good prospects for new business" in 1995, according to Jeannette Chang, who became publisher last month. "Ad pages at retail are looking very strong and we're regaining the cosmetics business." Chang said Harper's Bazaar had an 11 percent increase in apparel, footwear and accessories in 1994, versus 1993. "The trade was one area we really went after," she said. She said retail ad pages will be up 12 percent through the November issue. "Based on this, we are continuing to grow this core business and make it stronger and stronger." In the beauty area, she said, increases will come in categories that are available in drug stores. As for other potential growth areas, Chang cited liquor, travel and automotives. As for the newsstand, where Bazaar has struggled in the past, she said sales were up 11.7 percent in the first half of 1994. Elle expects to be up 13 percent in ad pages in 1994 and has moved into the second position behind Vogue, said David Pecker, president and chief executive officer of Hachette Filipacci, which publishes Elle. He said he expects another 10 percent in ad volume in 1995. He said 1995 marks Elle's 10th anniversary in the U.S. The January cover will feature Kim Basinger, the first celebrity to appear on the cover in the history of the U.S. edition. "What's been great for us is the nonendemic parts of the business, such as automotives and consumer electronics. The corporate business has tripled in the magazine the last two years. Pecker noted that ad rates were going up around 7 percent next year due to a 10 percent increase in postage and an increase in paper costs. He noted that newsstand sales were ahead 5 percent through September. Stephanie George, publisher of W, said, "Overall, the business environment is still really tough, but W is doing well. We're getting a larger share of the limited dollars that are still out there. "Our business is good, but the actual marketplace is still volatile," said George, adding, "Nineteen ninety-five, interestingly enough, is showing really good signs. We're seeing it could be a strong first quarter. We'll end up this year 8 percent ahead." George noted that the retail category is excellent, and is running 6 percent ahead of last year. "People are booking late," she noted. "A full 12-month schedule rarely happens. Sometimes they book season to season, or even closer to that. Retailers are less guilty. Fashion people are more sporadic. If the creative looks good, they'll run it." Among the nonendemic categories, George said automotives and spirits have picked up.An especially strong category is men's wear, featured twice a year in W's Men's Portfolio. As for retail business in 1995, George said, "Overall it's still going to be tough." Mirabella believes its business is getting stronger. Catherine Viscardi, named publisher in March, said, "We've been up every single issue since June. We were down in February, March, April and May. We'll end up the year 3 to 4 percent up." Over the past year and a half, there were numerous reports that Rupert Murdoch was trying to sell Mirabella, but Viscardi said there's a stronger commitment than ever. "He [Murdoch] almost sold it a year and a half ago," said Viscardi, "but now they've put everything in place. There's a new circulation director, a new human resource director and they are utterly committed. It's real clear to the ad community that Murdoch is serious about the magazine." While Viscardi said it's "really early to tell" about 1995 business, she added, "I have very positive feelings." She predicted an increase in the first quarter and said, "We've been through our transition period." Viscardi said several top designer lines, including Calvin Klein, Anne Klein and Donna Karan, have committed to the magazine, and "Europeans are back in." "The next area to expand beyond department store beauty products," she said, "is high-end mass beauty products." Allure continues to grow at a fast clip. "I have to believe next year looks very strong for us," said publisher Alexandra Golinkin. "We continue to be more of a core buy in the beauty accounts." Golinkin noted that Allure is seeing nice growth in both mass and department store beauty products, as well as some nonendemic categories, such as automotive. "In the fourth quarter, we broke Toyota and GM's Avenger," she said. Liquor is another area of growth, she said, citing advertisers such as Stolichnaya, Bailey's and Cuervo. Golinkin said she'll finish 1994 up 15 percent. "Over 70 percent of the ad pages came from clientswho renewed at larger schedules from last year." Golinkin also noted that Allure has been doing nicely in the fashion and retail category and sees that as an opportunity for 1995. "We haven't done as well as we'd like in fashion," she said. She predicts Allure will be up between 5 and 10 percent in the first half. Mitchell Fox, publisher of Vanity Fair, said the magazine has restructured its editorial fashion office and expects that to help business next year. As reported, Kate Harrington has been named style director and Elizabeth Saltzman has become fashion editor. "Vanity Fair will be styled from cover to cover. We're going to style every shoot that's possible," he said. He said Vanity Fair was off in October and November, but will be up in December. "Automotives are doing exceptionally well, and beauty and fragrances are a strong category for us," said Fox. He also said men's wear is doing very well. Thomas Florio, publisher of The New Yorker, said it's difficult to predict how business will be, for a weekly. "As the monthlies close their last issue, there is always a flurry of business for The New Yorker," he said. "Our fourth quarter is a very heavy season. So much is retail-driven in a small period of time. I think we'll have a very strong quarter." Since The New Yorker didn't run an anniversary issue this year observing editor Tina Brown's second year at the helm (as it did a year ago), Florio said he expects to make up the difference with its Oct. 31 fashion issue, which will carry 127 ad pages, versus 60 a year ago. Florio said there was certain business The New Yorker didn't get this year because it was unwilling to negotiate. Continued from page 7 "We had conversations with clients and said we will not do business that way. I think we're going to have a solid first quarter, and we'll continue to see growth in categories, such as retail," he said. Since The New Yorker recently decided to accept scent strips, Florio predicts business in the beauty category, particularly in launches, that it didn't get before. Janet Robinson, vice president and director of advertising at the New York Times Magazine, said it is "doing well in apparel, accessories and home furnishings." She said advertisers are reacting "very positively" to Holly Brubach's style pages in the magazine. So far, apparel advertising is up 26 percent for the year, while accessories advertising moved ahead 54 percent, said Robinson. "Her treatments are very different from other fashion magazines. You're seeing a very versatile approach," she said. Among the magazine's new fashion advertisers are Dolce & Gabbana, Fendi, Jil Sander and Isaac Mizrahi. Robinson said the Times Magazine will have a "decent" year in 1994. "There were some losses," she said. "Cosmetics has been down for us. We don't accept scent strips. But we are looking at building up our business." Robinson called the marketplace "very competitive," but added, "We are up to the challenge. We're able to compete more effectively than we have in the past [with value-added and data-base marketing]." She said this summer the magazine instituted a team-based program in which marketing and promotional people went on sales calls with the sales representatives. Amy R. Churgin, publisher of New York, said the magazine has been adding designer business. For the fourth quarter, she said, retail business looks good, and she cited particularly strong upcoming issues on Christmas gifts and holiday entertaining. She said the magazine was up 9.7 percent in the third quarter of 1994, and is even more bullish for the fourth quarter, expecting an increase of between 10 and 15 percent. "One of the problem areas has been cosmetics," she said, citing "huge launch schedules," and then a trailing off. Further, she said, the magazine didn't get many launches this year. Churgin is seeing increases in liquor, automotives and travel. Beth Brenner, publisher of Self, said the outlook is good. She expects to finish the year 7 percent ahead. For the first quarter of 1995, "automotive is really driving the growth," she said. Self's three biggest categories are beauty, footwear and automotives. Fashion, meanwhile, was up 7 percent in 1994, "but Self has never relied on fashion." Brenner said fashion business for 1995,"is looking good, but that business is so unpredictable." She also said advertisers are booking later. "They are holding plans very close to the vest, and asking for proposals two to three times a year, as opposed to one time," she said. "We're following through on added-value proposals. People are cashing in on them. They are as good for the magazine as they are for the advertiser." Donna Galotti, publisher of Ladies Home Journal, is very optimistic about the business climate for her magazine. She said she'll end up 1994 ahead of last year by 40 to 50 pages. "A lot of the growth has been from high-end beauty companies, which are new for us," she said. The magazine has carried Sanofi, Givenchy and Elizabeth Arden, and for November added Estée Lauder and Chanel. Dana Fields, group publisher of Us and Rolling Stone, said Us will be up 10 percent for the year. "Us has completely carved out its own position as an important vehicle for reaching women. The whole entertainment category has exploded. It's the only one that skews mostly female readers," said Fields, noting that Us has a 69 percent female readership. Fields said this year Us broke such advertisers as Timex, Lee Jeans, Fila, L'eggs Hosiery and Jockey for Women. "The first half looks very good," said Fields. "The women's market is the most competitive out there. It's very aggressive. Us doesn't deliver the reach or efficiency of Cosmo and Glamour. Where we are a strong player is with advertisers buying more than two magazines. We're a very strong number two or number three buy." Fields said she asks advertisers if they need to be in four women's service books. She said Us, with a circulation of 1.1 million, gives advertisers "an unduplicated product," and is for women whose primary interest is entertainment. With a circulation of 1.1 million readers, Fields said, "We never sell against People [magazine]. Our competition is the young women's magazines."
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