Custom Pubs Find Niche in U.S., UK

While the consumer magazine industry continues to suffer from relentless Internet competition and stretched ad dollars, custom publishing thrives in the United States and Britain, two recent studies say.

Custom publishing spending in the United States grew for the sixth straight year in 2005, reaching a record $45.8 billion, according to a study released this month from the Custom Publishing Council in cooperation with Publications Management, a newsletter that tracks custom publishing.

Meanwhile, a survey released this month by the Direct Marketing Association (UK) Ltd. noted that custom publications were considered the most relevant and informative form of direct marketing.

The U.S. report found that spending has more than doubled since first tabulated in 2000.

“Custom publishing sits at the center of the evolution of marketing toward branded content,” said Jim Offel, general manager of Diablo Custom Publishing and current chair of the Custom Publishing Council. “The research clearly shows that marketers are increasingly relying on custom publications to boost their brands.”

The council is the leading professional organization representing custom publishers in North America. The research was conducted by mail targeting a random sample of companies across all industries, with 200 respondents. Other highlights from the report:

· Average pages reached a record 25 per issue in 2005, up 80 percent since 1999 and 9 percent from last year.

· Average yearly circulation per title rose 20 percent in 2005 to 378,998 copies.

· Magazines surpassed newsletters and other media as the most common publication format.

· Also for the first time, the majority of custom publications carried ads. Fifty-four percent carried paid ads from outside advertisers and 20 percent contained in-house ads.

· The number of unique pages produced in 2005 was 25.3 million, up 18.3 percent versus 2004.

· More companies used four-color in 2005 (59 percent) than ever, while 79 percent used some four-color.

The average frequency of custom publications changed little, while the six-year trend of titles produced per company is up 21 percent from 1.9 to 2.3 titles.

Notable publications launched last year include Lazydays' RV Living (Rodale Custom Publishing), Callaway Golf's Callaway Golf Magazine (MacDuff Publishing) and Scotts Canada's Grow (Redwood Custom Communications).

The DMA UK's Participation Media 2005 survey asked 1,835 consumers their opinions of direct marketing: including direct mail, e-mail, interactive TV, telemarketing, mobile messaging and field marketing. Custom magazines generated the highest positive response (34 percent), with more consumers making a purchase, asking for more information or passing along to a friend or family member than any other DM format.

The most likely response mechanism for a custom magazine is to visit a store in person, followed by requesting more information by phone. Custom magazines generate a 10 percent direct purchase rate.

Of the 11 forms of communication surveyed, custom magazines were the most passed-on medium (4.2 percent) and the medium most likely to be filed away for later (18 percent). They were least ignored, thrown away, cancelled or unsubscribed. No consumer cited custom magazines when asked about communications that elicit a negative response.

Almost two-thirds of magazines are delivered direct to the door, a contributor to the finding that consumers consider custom magazines to be one of the most helpful forms of direct marketing.

Melissa Campanelli covers postal news, CRM and database marketing for DM News and To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting

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