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Circulation Panel Discusses Reinventing Magazines

NEW YORK — Though even longstanding magazines must reinvent themselves sometimes, there's no required way on how to go about it, according to panelists at the Direct Marketing Association's 17th annual Circulation Day yesterday at the Marriott Marquis.

While one publishing professional said that changes to his magazine were researched extensively, another said no research was done prior to her publication's changes.

“We didn't do surveys or tests, and we changed everything down to the typeface,” said Jackie Leo, editor-in-chief of Reader's Digest Magazine. But she added that all the changes were made with the magazine's audience in mind because respecting the publication's core audience was crucial.

On the other hand, Yankee magazine conducted subscriber surveys, newsstand reader surveys, telephone surveys and focus groups.

“The process took about a year and a half,” said Jamie Trowbridge, president of Yankee Publishing. After all the research, he said, results proved that the company's theories about the proposed changes were correct.

Though each panelist shared ideas specific to their own magazine title's reinvention, they also shared more general tips about repositioning a publication.

Leo stressed the importance of keeping up with culture at large. She suggested being respectful of current readers with an eye toward the next generation.

Denise Anderman, publishing director at Popular Science, also talked about staying current. Her title was able to capitalize on the general public's newfound awareness of biotechnology and aimed to make it accessible to a mass audience.

The fourth panelist, Cable Nauhaus, editor-in-chief of Folio Magazine, said his publication was in a different boat than the others on the panel.

“Our overall strategy was survival,” he said.

The changes were widely praised but were unpopular with longtime advertisers, he said. When making changes, he said, that risk always exists.

The panel of publishing executives was titled “Magazine Reinvention — Strategies for Reinvigorating Magazine Brands.” It was moderated by Michele Jaworski, director of staff development at Time Consumer Marketing.

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