Spotlight conversation: Taking TV Guide beyond TV

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Scott Crystal
Scott Crystal

Q: And online?
A: All publishers are looking at online as a way to try to drive new subscriptions and new customers and new sampling. Our web site has grown almost 100% in traffic over the last couple of years. There's a great synergy of integrated content across the magazine and Web site. The site is very interactive, with a lot of polls as on the sexiest stars initiative. The ability to build community is one of the key areas for us, and I think lots of magazines, to really tap those passions that resonate with your constituency.

Q: What were some of your more unique campaigns?
A: During last fall's preview timeframe, we did a unique campaign with TV ads. Most media companies and most magazines don't do television advertising; you don't see many magazine brands advertising on television. We created 15 different customized spots that tied into specific shows and would only run during the air time of that show.

The awareness was phenomenal – we got tons and tons of unsolicited phone calls, and that was a really cool, quick and fun reminder that TV Guide brand can help get you through the week because they were timed to run near the end of an episode. At end of Lost you're tensed up and need to find out what happens, so we help you get through the week, going behind the scenes in the magazine. It really helped cement the position of the brand.

Q: What are the challenges of marketing a weekly title?
A: The more topical you can be, the better your ability to connect with consumers. Our marketing absolutely tries to make it relevant and topical. We have a compressed window for how we want to use marketing. For direct mail, we schedule numerous printings —not 20 million at the beginning of the year. About 6 times a year we change the message and make it topical. 

Q: Tell me about the decision to take 6 million out of your rate base in Fall 2005?
A: That had never been done, and people were shocked. I said the circulation and distribution models for magazines will have to change, and other publishers will have to look at what we did and change things. In 2006, almost nobody followed, then, sure enough, Time took 750,000 out of its rate base, Newsweek 500,000, and Readers Digest took 2 million out just last year.

Then Star became the first celebrity magazine to reduce, and then you see it across women's service, and the seminal moment just took place at the beginning of this year when the perennial rocket ships of In Touch and Life and Style took a fairly dramatic rate base cut.

You have to be willing to be a pioneer, which makes you a very easy target for all the cynics.  At the end of day, if you really believe in it, tested it, researched it, be willing to make changes that need to be made, as long as they're for the right reasons.

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