Old habits die hard

Writing for Woman's Wear Daily, Erik Maza recently posted "Slow going for ad sales at The New Republic". Timed to the release of the third issue of the redesigned magazine, the article notes that the first redesigned issue had 10 pages of advertising, while the two since (TNR comes out biweekly) have carried seven and five ad pages.

With its total circulation currently around 44,000 subscribers, TNR is lucky to have any advertising. A small thought leadership magazine with a biweekly frequency and an unclear demographic (10,000 of its 44,000 subscribers have been added in the last year) makes for a hard sell, even with a redesign.

I think Maza's coverage defaults to an assumption that redesigns are motivated by a desire to improve advertising perceptions and revenues. That certainly does happen, but it makes no sense for a magazine like TNR, which has to re-establish its value for a new generation of readers.

At the time of the redesign, Mashable's Lauren Indvik interviewed TNR's new(ish) owner, Chris Hughes, reporting:

The first part of Hughes' revenue strategy is to make TNR, which costs $35 for 20 print issues per year, more worthy of its subscription price. In addition to glossy print deliveries, subscribers are also promised complimentary access to all of TNR's digital assets, including its website and tablet apps, which will sync across devices (a first for any magazine, so far as I'm aware). They'll also be privy to audio recordings of every story, via Spoken Layer, making it easier for subscribers to consume on their morning runs and daily commutes. In addition, there will be invitations to subscriber-only events.

At the time Hughes acquired TNR, it was said to be losing about $1 million a year. At $35 a year the 10,000 subscriptions added since last March are worth $350,000 in revenue. The math isn't that simple, as it costs money to grow, but it's clear that there's significant leverage adding paid subscribers, much more than trying to grow advertising at $3,000 a page (ignore what the rate card says; everyone else does).

Hughes says he is aptly focused on "generating online revenue from readers". That doesn't preclude selling more advertising, but it's the right place to start in re-establishing The New Republic. Get the value proposition right, and the advertising revenue that follows may just be gravy.

Brian O'Leary

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.

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