American Profile Appeals to Rural Markets

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The ultimate goal for American Profile as a brand is to become synonymous with celebrating hometown life, as quintessentially American as baseball, hot dogs and apple pie. But for now, its founder, Dan Hammond, will settle for a launch circulation of close to 1 million for the not-yet-published Sunday newspaper supplement.

The new Nashville, TN-based publication, with an April 23, 2000 launch date, is currently signing up rural and community newspaper publishers to distribute it and advertisers who believe it may help them reach an underserved segment of the population. Primary competitors are the well-established Parade and USA Weekend, though those Sunday supplements target more urban and suburban newspaper markets and on average have much higher circulation.

"This is a brand new distribution channel to a part of the country that is ordinarily very difficult to reach," said Hammond, publisher/CEO of Publishing Group of America, American Profile's parent company. The company raised roughly $15 million in start-up funds for the magazine in partnership with Megunticook Management, Boston, a venture capital group. "Weekly and small market daily papers have no competition for their news, and those papers are typically read cover-to-cover."

A direct mail media kit was mailed out in the last two weeks introducing the small-town wholesome publication to 850 advertiser prospects, including potential advertisers, their agencies and its media planners. The list of prospects was compiled inhouse through a combination of raw data from the Standard Directory of Advertisers and the Standard Directory of Advertising Agencies, as well as Competitive Media Reporting data.

The elaborate package via inhouse staff and its advertising agency Creative Works, Nashville, TN, consists of a media kit, including a prototype of American Profile, wrapped in red checkered gingham cloth and encased in a tied brown wrapper. Another wave of the kits will ship soon, with a total of 5,000 mailed over the next several months. "We need to mail in stages," said Steve Young, senior vice president of sales at American Profile. "Our people have to work in-field behind that effort." Young is currently in the process of hiring sales representatives.

Initial advertisers already include Allegra, Bose, Franklin Mint, and John Deere, according to Hammond. "A large portion of advertisers are from the direct response marketing industry," he said. A trade advertising campaign in titles, including Advertising Age, Adweek, and Editor and Publisher complements the direct mail effort. Follow up direct mail consists of a three-tiered teaser campaign to reinforce the brand that will be staggered state-by-state.

The initial circulation goal is based on insertion of the four-color magazine in roughly 210 hometown and community newspapers in small, rural communities in the Midwest with an average circulation of 4,200, commonly referred to as C and D markets.

Aggressive circulation growth is expected, according to Hammond. "Our target before three years is up is to be at about 10 million." A separate direct mail effort to a total of 3,500 publishers and editors will roll out over the next two months. Already, verbal commitments from publishers that total about 200,000 circulation have been secured. The supplement will ultimately reach readers with six distinct regional editions: Midwest, Southeast, Central, West, Northeast and Mid Atlantic.

W. Pendleton "Pen" Tudor, a marketing consultant, veteran of the publishing industry and co-founder of Adweek, is on American Profile's board of advisors. "I've never seen a more comprehensive business plan," he said, in explaining his interest and involvement with the launch. The American Profile concept serves a market that until now has been largely ignored, he said. "From a long view I've had of the business, there have been two markets underserved. One has been the senior market, and the other is the 'C and D' rural markets. The 'other than the top 50' markets have been underserved and ignored, and Dan [Hammond] has generated an idea that has the opportunity to relate to that market."

The appeal of the new concept is a perfect fit for direct response companies looking for loyal customers, said Young. "Direct response started in rural areas with the Sears, Roebuck catalog," he said. "The whole origin of direct response is to be able to reach people in rural areas who otherwise had limited access to retail stores."

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