TV Guide Eyeing Direct Response Travel Ads

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TV Guide is looking to diversify its advertising to include more direct response travel spots, and publisher Dick Porter sees the television entertainment weekly as a publication of choice for reaching young, domestic travelers -- especially those who make their treks with kids in tow.


Porter, who joined TV Guide in May, has experience with travel advertising. He helped build travel ad revenue from zero to $10 million over four years at Reader's Digest, and he sees shared strengths between the two magazines. Both have high circulations and a low number of readers per copy, which is an asset for direct response.


"At another magazine, there might be nine readers per copy. We have three. When you run that reader service card, if the first reader pulls it out, those other eight readers per copy don't have a chance to respond to it," Porter said. "Most general advertising buys [space] against that audience number. But the direct response advertisers are really looking for the households that you're delivering, not the pass-along readers. That's the important distinction."


Porter declined to identify specific advertisers TV Guide is talking with, but he said its early prospects look good. The magazine is gearing toward spring advertising directed at readers who are planning trips for the summer travel season.


A publication of Sydney, Australia-based News Corp., TV Guide boasts 10 million subscribers and a total readership of 38 million, making it the No. 1 weekly in the United States. Broadcasters like ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox are the magazine's largest advertisers, with automotive companies, pharmaceutical firms and consumer goods companies like Philip Morris Cos. and Procter & Gamble Co. also prominent buyers of space. Its current direct response advertisers include the Franklin Mint and Bradford Exchange.


As of the end of August, the magazine's ad page totals were down 11 percent from the same period a year ago, a decline Porter attributes to softness among the auto and drug companies. He wants to bring that business back, but he also wants to attract travel spots trying to generate responses through toll-free numbers or reader service cards.


With a median age of 37, TV Guide's readership is younger than Reader's Digest, reaching a large portion of the 18- to 49-year-old market including households with children. It's the sort of audience that might pack up and go to Sea World; Cooperstown, NY; or the Grand Ole Opry. This is where Porter sees opportunities.


"There's certainly a travel segment of 50-plus that Reader's Digest did a great job of reaching, but there's also the family travel market -- and it's primarily domestic," Porter said. "If you're the state of Tennessee or the state of Louisiana or a local CVB [convention and visitors' bureau], you're trying to bring in that drive-in traffic. Sometimes it's for a weekend. Maybe it's for a night. We have a great domestic traveler story, particularly for young families, because TV Guide is a little bit younger."


TV Guide also has 109 local editions in the United States to sell to advertisers.


"A lot of domestic travel destinations really have a regional skew to them," Porter said. "The traffic that they would attract is regional. Because we have the large circulation to start with, we can create these regional sections of the magazine, reaching that family travel market."
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