Rate Base Barriers Fall for domino

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It's only five issues old, but home shopping lifestyle magazine domino already has overdelivered on its promised circulation to advertisers and ended the year ahead of its projected ad-page count.


The Condé Nast title amassed more than 300,000 subscriptions through effective strategy. Throw in another 100,000 copies sold consistently since the debut May issue, and the publisher has that enviable circulation mix few have: 75 percent subs, 25 percent newsstand.


"To sell 25 percent on newsstand would be monumental in the shelter world," said Beth Brenner, vice president and publisher of domino, New York.


Confident that its luck will sustain, the 10-times-a-year domino ups its rate base to 450,000 copies starting with the January issue. It is relying on a circulation strategy that has worked in the past year.


Take subscriptions. The strategy includes a targeted mix of magazine lists -- shelter, lifestyle and fashion -- as well as catalog files and online efforts via the site at www.dominomag.com.


The magazine also is launching partnership programs with retailers like Resto and HD Buttercup and furniture makers like Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams. It is in discussions with other retailers and catalogers to do multichannel programs.


In keeping with an industry trend, the Internet is becoming a major source for signing up domino subscribers. The magazine has received more than 30,000 subscriptions via its site.


"We're starting to see gift subscriptions roll in for the holidays," Brenner said, "leading us to believe that the gift file will be a strong one for this magazine."


Twelve issues cost $12 to subscribe -- 71 percent off the cover price -- or 24 issues cost $20.


Newsstand, too, has performed. The publisher set out to sell 100,000 copies on the newsstand this year, and nearly doubled that figure with the first issue. Of course, that issue was on sale for three months.


Still, early indications are that the magazine is selling at the same pace as it did with the premiere issue. Brenner projects that each issue will cross the 100,000-level by 25 percent to 30 percent. Each future issue will stay on newsstands for five weeks.


Like most magazines in its space, domino will rely on ads in trade titles, targeted direct mail, consumer-focused events with sponsors, online programs and a new signature event to stay in front of readers, ad agencies and marketers.


Domino closed the year with 368.17 ad pages for its five 2005 issues. While not disclosing its original projection, the publisher claims to have exceeded expectations.


"Our business plan was built on a lifestyle versus shelter mix of advertising, with many diverse categories and all types of advertising -- luxury, mid and mass," Brenner said. "I'm happy to say we've also achieved that precise mix in the first year. Result? Our ad mix truly reflects the lifestyle orientation of domino."


Translated, this means that home advertisers account for 30 percent of domino's revenue, retail 16 percent, fashion and beauty 12 percent and automotive 11 percent. Finance and food and beverages each account for 8 percent and health and technology and consumer electronics each 5 percent.


Also, media and entertainment generates 3 percent and travel and miscellaneous each account for 2 percent.


More than 30 advertisers are said to have committed to yearlong schedules prior even to seeing the first issue. And some, like home furnishings chain Lowe's and cable television channel HGTV, signed on for every issue.


"Advertisers saw domino as a bridge between older shelter titles and newer lifestyle titles," Brenner said. "Advertisers can see themselves in our pages. They are readers, too. And because we bring something fresh and new to the market, that brings them an opportunity to reach out to a ripe new audience of consumers."


So what is domino? The magazine is modeled on a Condé Nast shopping magazine formula used by Lucky for women and Cargo for men. In style, design and essence, it is akin to European titles like Living Etc. and the British Elle Decoration -- free-spirited, eclectic and style filters.


Condé Nast spotted an unfulfilled need in the marketplace for a Web-savvy, family-oriented woman in her 30s whose home was not just a style statement but also a haven. Continuing research confirms that, Brenner said.


"It was abundantly clear to us, then [at launch] and now, that there was a void in the marketplace," she said. "Shelter mag readers had grown older with their constituencies, and no other magazine had stepped in to fill that hole. Enter domino.


"We're answering the call from house-rich, furniture-poor homeowners and apartment dwellers who need decorating advice and help in fine-tuning their own personal home style," she said.


Recent issues offer help with rearranging a living room, organizing the entranceway, art that goes with everything, new ways to style a fireplace, a guide to coffee tables, domino's 400 favorite gifts, a chart of festive holiday table settings and the etiquette of gifting and re-gifting. Designers like Celerie Kemble, Katie Lydon and Thomas O'Brien help.


As a crossover, domino competes for ad dollars with shelter titles like Cottage Living, Dwell and lifestyle publications like Real Simple, O at Home and Martha Stewart Living. But Brenner finds a key difference between domino and other lifestyle magazines.


"Domino's focus is narrow and our range broad," she said. "In other words, we concentrate on home and then address its many facets. Other lifestyle magazines -- Real Simple, for example -- attempt to have a much broader focus -- on various aspects of a woman's life -- and then cover each aspect less deeply."


Mickey Alam Khan covers Internet marketing campaigns and e-commerce, agency news as well as circulation for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters


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