Vegetarian Times Plans Fresh Editorial, Market Position

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Vegetarian Times soon will turn over a new leaf.


Active Interest Media Inc. is relaunching the magazine with its November/December issue, almost a year after acquiring the publishing assets of Sabot, Richmond, VA. The editorial, advertising, pricing and circulation changes come in time for the magazine's 30th anniversary.


"The magazine had become a little stale under its previous owner," said Susan Tauster, the Elmhurst, IL-based group publisher of Active Interest's healthy lifestyles group. "Coming up to a milestone like the 30th anniversary, it was a good time to position Vegetarian Times as not only serving the market, but also as a market maker for healthy eating and living."


Once tweaked, the magazine is intended to attract not just its core baby boomer female audience in their 40s, but also those in generation Z -- born between 1979 and 1994.


It will stand apart from rivals like Time Inc.-owned Southern Progress' Cooking Light, Rodale Press' Organic Style and the independent Veggy Times.


The planned changes run the gamut. Editorial will have a new department for families and children. More tips, tools, techniques and how-to ideas are expected. Eco-friendly articles with substance will be featured. More recipes will run, occupying 60 percent of content along with food stories.


Under editor-in-chief Val Weaver, the magazine is branching into articles on natural skincare, complementary medicine and organics. Sixteen pages will be added, raising the typical count to 116. Changes within editorial will be reflected on the magazine's retooled Web site, www.vegetariantimes.com.


The perfect-bound magazine will bear a softer, more feminine look. Trim size will increase from 8-by-10 1/2 inches to 8 5/8-by-10 7/8 inches. Cover paper stock goes from 100-pound to 120-pound. New inside paper -- UPM Satin 43.9-pound No. 4 sheet -- replaces body stock of 40-pound No. 5 sheet.


"The whole look of it is a lot more lush," said Efrem "Skip" Zimbalist III, chairman and president/CEO of Active Interest, El Segundo, CA. "It is a lot less cluttered. People want to savor the food and recipes."


Confident that the market will accept such changes, Active Interest will boost Vegetarian Times' cover price to $4.99 with the relaunched issue from the current $3.99. A standard subscription will continue to cost $19.95 for 10 issues annually. But other offers are under test.


Though the rate base -- circulation guaranteed to advertisers -- remains 210,000, the print run increases in order to double the newsstand presence from 90,000 to 180,000. Subscription sales are 85 percent of the rate base.


"We'd like to get more newsstand," Zimbalist said. "It's more profitable, and it's more responsive. It's been proven over the years that the newsstand customers who're buying it right now will read it right now."


Tauster agreed.


"And for our advertising partners, that's very valuable," she said. "We want to own the natural products category."


Vegetarian Times' advertisers cover areas such as whole foods, kitchen appliances, nutritional supplements and organics. They include Avalon Organics, Dannon, Boca Burger, Cuisinart, Silk soymilk, Nasoya marinated tofu and Twinlab vitamins. Dole's health and nutrition division is a new advertiser.


The magazine is promoted to healthcare organizations, vegetarian societies and packaged with manufacturers' products as offers for a free copy or subscription. An in-house-led direct mail effort starts in January.


A major challenge, Zimbalist said, is direct mail response rates and mail fatigue, along with consolidation on the newsstand.


"The number of major wholesalers has shrunk from a couple of hundred to about six in the last 10 years," he said. "And retailers are being much more demanding concerning the service and profit-sharing requirements they're putting on wholesalers. This has made it more difficult for smaller-circulation magazines to retain their position on the newsstand."


Founded in October, Active Interest has nine enthusiast magazines, 10 consumer shows and related martial arts videos and books with home plans. Among its titles are Better Nutrition, Log Home Design Ideas, Log Home Living, Southwest Art and Black Belt.


Zimbalist looks to buy more magazines in the healthy living, home and art, and enthusiast sports categories.


"That's where we started," he said. "We like these fields. They're healthy, they're growing and they have very avid participants."


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