DOWN TWO: It appears even healthy ad pages aren’t enough to keep magazines from reducing frequency. Condé Nast said Thursday it was scaling back W magazine, which had been performing relatively well among advertisers, to 10 issues a year from a monthly.
The move puts W in lockstep with Harper’s Bazaar, owned by Hearst Corp., which went to 10 issues in September 2011.
The news was surprising because W finished 2012 with nearly 1,200 ad pages, 10 percent above the year before, according to Media Industry Newsletter. And publisher Lucy Kriz, who succeeded Nina Lawrence last fall, was rewarded with the second-place performance award at Condé’s corporate retreat early this week, ahead of Vogue’s Susan Plagemann. A quarter into the new year, the magazine is up nearly 6 percent in ad pages.
But by reducing frequency, Condé can squeeze more profits out of a magazine that, after four decades, is not the powerhouse it once was.
Since its peak in 2007, W has not been as big a performer with advertisers or in circulation as its corporate siblings, or even Bazaar, whose rate base is 700,000 and finished 2012 with 1,800 pages.
While advertising recently climbed, the magazine continued to be one of the slimmest in Condé’s arsenal — Vogue, for instance, had more than twice as many total pages last year.
“This move will maximize profitability and allow the brand to bolster its focus on key issues,” Condé said. The issues to be combined are December/January and June/July.
Kriz, who joined in October, said the circulation base, now at 450,000, and advertising rates remain the same.
Condé described the W news as “a strategic brand expansion,” which includes a revamped Web site due in May and a limited distribution of its November issue in China — there’s already a Korea edition of the magazine.
“This is an intentional and strategic move to invest in the future of W, and there is no better time to do that than when you’re in a position of strength. This strategy frees up resources for us to double down and go big on what matters most — big issues and digital,” Kriz told WWD.