Just what business are we in?

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PHOENIX - The question of what business magazine publishers, circulators and advertisers are in today is something that would be a laughable topic 10 years ago.

However, at this year's American Magazine Conference panelists Time Inc. CEO Anne Moore and Rodale Inc. CEO Steve Murphy, along with moderator Richard Smith, chairman and editor-in-chief of Newsweek, found it to be a relevant question indeed.

"Even something as simple as going to the grocery store has changed," Ms. Moore said. "People are not going there as much, so therefore checkout sales are down and also their reading habits have changed."

Although the habits of consumers have changed, the fundamentals of building a business have remained the same.

"If we do our job right, we're in the same business of creating good content," Mr. Murphy said. "Never forget that it starts with the editorial and that is also true online."

Men's Health, a Rodale publication, saw its readership rise more than 40 percent after the editorial staff began generating the online content, Mr. Murphy said.

"You can't be afraid," Ms. Moore said. "Once you give up your fear of cannibalization, than you can use it to your advantage.

Ms. Moore provided the example of giving readers a peek of the annual Sports Illustrated Swim Suit Issue online the day before it hit stands.

"Previously we had kept the cover a secret in fear of it hurting our newsstand sales," she said. "But when we gave the online peak we had 33 million page hits, and that didn't hurt anything."

Bringing in technology partners is also a way to stay current, along with taking advantage of broadband opportunities.

"People being in a channel to receive video is a huge advantage for us," Mr. Murphy said. "We have to sell online and print in one bucket, because that's also what advertisers want."

Having more editorial content online than in print is also a key component to longevity.

"If you build a great product than the consumer will want it," Ms. Moore said. "This game is not over."

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