Canadian Magazine Targets U.S. 20-Somethings

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Shift, a Canadian print magazine with a digital focus, makes its U.S. debut this November. Financed by BHVR, a Toronto company whose principal, Richard Szalwinski, founded software animation firm Discreet Logic, the magazine's launch strategy includes traditional direct mail as well as online efforts.


Riccelli Direct, Boston, which has also done direct mail work for Fast Company and Inc., created three distinct test packages that will mail Sept. 15 to 160,000 prospects using 30 rented lists. The creative consists of two traditional packages including cover letter, brochure, buckslip and reply card, and one nontraditional package which is a 8-page magalog featuring a recent cover with spreads that introduce the magazine's appeal.


Greg Jones, a magazine circulation veteran, who also has handled Wired's circulation strategy, will manage the direct mail campaign through his company Granite Bay Media, Roseville, CA, which will oversee list rental, production and mailing in collaboration with its Toronto agency Abacus.


He also will serve as handholder to the Shift executive team as they launch in the United States. "We brought Greg Jones in on a couple of levels," said Wayne Leek, consumer marketing director at Shift. "He's got general publishing expertise, so we brought him in on overall strategy to get his reaction."


Describing the Wired-like publication for the 20-something set, "There's room for a magazine that addresses the lifestyle issues of living in a digital culture," according to Leek.


Maybe so, but the field is getting crowded. Shift's U.S. edition will cover entertainment, high technology, fashion and lifestyle, so competitors range from Wired, Fast Company, Red Herring, and Business 2.0 to Yahoo! Internet Life, Spin, Maxim and Details.


The mission, said Leek, is to fill the space Wired vacated when it became more business-oriented. He said the market of young, urban, digitally savvy consumers will respond to the publication and are just the readers Shift is interested in attracting.


"The demographics of our magazine are identical to those of the Internet," said publisher Andrew Heintzman, who recently relocated to New York from Toronto for the start-up. "Wired would be the most obvious comparison [in terms of competitors]. We're much more of a lifestyle magazine."


Jones said the crowded marketplace is not an issue. "The marketplace is available to new magazine launches," he said. "Look at the successful launches we've seen in just the last six to 12 months of several magazines. There's always room for another magazine product that is well positioned and well thought out."


Other direct marketing efforts for the U.S. launch include the use of nontraditional subscription agencies including New Sub Services, Quality School Plan and Electronic Newsstand. Shift has used American Family Publishers and Publishers Clearing House in Canada, but will not do so in the United States for now. "It's hard for a new title to get in there," said Leek.


Shift will use blow-in and bind-in business reply cards and full-page house ads to generate subscriptions. The magazine also will enhance its online subscription component to make it easier to subscribe from its Web site (www.shift.com), and it will expand banner advertising and other online promotions like reciprocal links designed to drive traffic to the site.


A 1.5 million-piece mailing in January 2000 will follow the September test. Another mailing in September 2000 will likely drop to another 1.5 million prospects. "We're looking for something we can roll out pretty extensively within the next two years," Leek said.
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