*Catalogers Find Magazine Lists Have New Appeal
"There's an old adage out there that subscription files don't work for catalogers," said Alan Zamchick, list director at Hachette Filipacchi Media, New York.
There are two main reasons for catalog clients' apprehension about magazine lists, said Donna Belardi, managing partner at ALC of New York LLC. Belardi brokers for several catalog mailers.
"Generally, subscriber files do not work as well for catalogers as mail order buyer lists do," she said. "Additionally, many of my clients try to do as many exchanges as possible, and there isn't as much opportunity for exchange relationships with subscriber files."
Even so, Belardi does recommend subscriber files to her catalog clients.
"The most important thing is that the subscription file that we recommend is very well-targeted," she said. The lifestyle and demographic information need to match that of the catalog closely.
Catalogers want to see concrete purchase information, and that is not the nature of magazine lists, said Patty Ricci, senior account executive on the Hearst files at Direct Media Inc., Greenwich, CT.
"There's no question that these people are active buyers," Shari Lidsky, group sales director at DMI, said of subscribers to Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire, which are published by Hearst. "We just don't know the specifics."
Ads occupy almost half of both magazines, said Ricci. Readers don't pick them up and ignore the ads, she said; they are just as important as the editorial content, and they drive readers to buy.
Cosmopolitan has more than 790,000 active subscribers with a median age of 32 and a median household income of $42,000. Marie Claire has more than 343,000 active subscribers with a median age of 31 and a median household income of $46,000. Both files are about 70 percent direct-response generated.
Active subscription files can work well, Zamchick said, if the demographics and the editorial fit with those of the catalog. The source of the names is also very important, he said, because catalogers need direct-response names.
Elle gets good catalog usage of all types through Experian's Z24/Circbase and the Abacus database, but not too much on its own. The reason is that of Elle's 498,000 active subscribers, only 50,000 are direct-response names, Zamchick said.
Getting catalogers to test straight subscription files is a difficult task for list managers, said Steve Perkins, account manager at Millard Group Inc., Peterborough, NH. Perkins manages the Conde Nast list properties at Millard.
"Conde Nast gets a significant portion of their list revenue from catalogers," said Perkins.
When promoting magazine lists to catalogers, they immediately object, he said, but when they see strong catalog usage, they often change their mind.
Vogue and W are two Conde Nast lists that perform well for catalogers, Perkins said, because the two are almost 100 percent fashion-focused and attract a more upscale, educated reader.
Of Vogue's 653,000 active subscribers, about half are direct-to-publisher names. The same is true for W's 400,000 active subscribers. The average age of Vogue's subscribers is 42, and the median household income is $63,000. W subscribers have an average age of 44 and a median household income of $127,000.
Resistance is expected when pitching magazine lists to catalogers, said Jim Lynch, vice president of list management at Millard. He handles InStyle and all other Time Inc. files managed at Millard.
It is hard to overcome mailers' apprehension, but solid catalog usage certainly helps, Lynch said.
"On its own, InStyle has been successful because of the demographics, the look, the readership that follows that particular publication," Lynch said.
InStyle's continuation usage by several upscale catalogers serves as a basis to promote the file as a catalog list, Lynch said.
"When there is a very strong affinity between the mailer and the editorial of the magazine, we can capitalize," Lynch said.
InStyle has 500,000 active subscribers, of whom more than 360,000 are direct-to-publisher. Subscribers have a median age of 33 and a median household income of $64,000.
Zamchick cites the successful participation of many publications in catalog databases such as Z24/Circbase and Abacus as a viable option for testing subscriber files.
If straight subscriber files don't work, there are several tools that can help to lift list performance, Belardi said. In addition to databases, she suggested ZIP models.
Lucky, a publication self-described on its cover as "a new magazine about shopping," was launched last month by Conde Nast. The debut issue features an 11-page section devoted entirely to shoes, complete with prices and telephone numbers or Web site addresses for making purchases. Perkins does not know if or when the file may be put on the market, but he thinks it would generate interest from catalogers.
If a list is made available, Lucky may be attractive to catalogers because of its focus on shopping and merchandise-heavy content, Belardi said, but that remains to be seen.