Time Begins Multichannel Drive To Boost Multicultural Readership

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For the first time in its 79-year history, Time magazine is targeting a multifaceted marketing campaign on African-Americans, Hispanics and Asians. The company is expected today to announce a partnership with BlackPlanet.com, a community Web site geared mostly toward blacks, calling it the first phase of a 12-month plan.

Over the next three months, Time, through several partnerships, will begin focus on the African-American market as well as gay and lesbian segments of the community through direct mail, print advertising and online marketing, among other tactics.

"Our overall vision is to increase the presence of the Time brand in these underdeveloped markets through a variety of relevant advertising and marketing campaigns," said Melvin Young, marketing director of multicultural markets at Time, in New York. "The African-American market, for one, is probably the fastest-growing middle-class segment in the country."

The African-American market is growing particularly in its purchasing power. According to the University of Georgia's Terry College of Business, African-American buying power has increased nearly 73 percent over the last decade, from $308 billion in 1990 to $533 in 1999.

Alfred L. Schreiber, author of "Multicultural Marketing," said the African-American market has been steadily growing, in particular, over the last five years. He attributes the growth to more educational opportunities, affirmative action and a rising economy, among other factors, all of which contribute to a growing African-American middle class.

"Some of the smartest marketing minds in the world are still stuck in the '60s," said Schreiber, who is also co-founder and president of the U.S. Alliance Group, a management search firm in Arlington, VA. "Once upon a time, companies had the choice to either do business with people of color or not.

"There are no longer choices," he added. "It is now imperative to do business with these markets because, while nobody was looking, these markets have become the premier markets in the U.S."

Because of this growth, Time, over the last 18 months, has been focusing more of its efforts on targeting people of color, as well as the gay and lesbian community, Young said. In addition to the BlackPlanet deal, Time has formed other agreements to target the black community with three undisclosed companies, he said.

Young said he expects the deals to increase subscriptions because Time already ranks high in readership among those markets. He said the magazine ranks 11th among blacks, fifth among Hispanics and second among Asians.

"The foundation is set," Young said. "African-American, Hispanics and Asians are already reading Time magazine.

"The key now is to really reach out to these audiences in a way that is relevant to them," he added.

The BlackPlanet deal calls for Time to feature pop-up subscription boxes on BlackPlanet's main page. Time, which is negotiating similar deals with BlackPlanet's sister companies, MiGente.com and AsianAvenue.com, is offering 18-to 24-year-olds eight free trial issues and 25-and-over members four free trial issues.

Young said the free trial offers could save BlackPlanet members 73 percent on subscriptions.

And through Black History month, Time will offer BlackPlanet members archived content on historic African-American milestones and achievements.

BlackPlanet will place a Time link on its home page, leading members to its news and politics section, where Time will be featured, Young said. BlackPlanet also will proactively market Time to its members via notification e-mails, company representatives said.

BlackPlanet also will offer its members "member points" for subscribing to Time, said Arul Sundaram, head of business development strategies at CommunityConnect, New York, BlackPlanet's parent company.

Meanwhile, Young said that though he hopes the marketing strategies will generate subscriptions in the African-American market, Time's main goal is to promote the magazine on BlackPlanet before launching several mini-Web sites, hosted by BlackPlanet, sometime in June.

As part of Time's offline marketing efforts, Young said, the company plans to advertise in print publications and launch in May a direct mail campaign targeting African-Americans and gays and lesbians. Time plans to market to the company database and rent lists from brokers, he said.

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