Wireless versions of Elle, Woman's Day and other magazines from Hachette Filipacchi Medias will debut this week in an effort to boost print subscriptions.
Dubbed Mobile Newsstand, the service will initially offer 10 channels of content featuring wireless versions of Hachette's fashion, automotive, enthusiast and entertainment titles for hand-held users.
Lagardere Active North America, the interactive joint venture of Hachette Filipacchi and parent Lagardere SCA, is spearheading the effort.
Ben Tatta, chief operating officer of Lagardere Active, said the wireless Web was a logical extension to the company's Internet efforts. The initiative will also include Elle Girl, Premiere, Cycleworld, Boating, Mobile Entertainment, Flying, and Car and Driver.
“The majority of the people that come to our sites aren't subscribers to the magazine,” Tatta said. “To me, that's a huge opportunity. And I think that's kind of what we're trying to tap into with wireless, is to get an audience that certainly hasn't converted into buying the print products.”
Tatta said each wireless Web channel will be associated with a different Hachette Filipacchi publication. The channel will give abbreviated information and articles on the pertinent magazine.
In addition, the channels will feature color photographs scalable to black and white. But most importantly, hand-held users can click a button to subscribe to the title that interests them.
So far, Lagardere is generating more than 100,000 subscriptions a year for Hachette titles through the Internet.
“I think it's pretty low, but we can put a lot more behind it and with new platforms to promote, I think it'll go up,” Tatta said.
Obviously, Tatta does not expect the wireless Web to outpace subscriptions acquired through the regular Lagardere Web sites.
“Very low,” he said of his wireless Web expectations. “I think maybe 10,000 a year.”
Consumers can either visit the Lagardere Web sites to download the wireless application or will be served that feature by their service provider. Tatta claims this is the first such wireless Web feature for a publisher across an array of titles.
As expected, the target for this effort is the early adopter of technology.
“One of the interesting things about the Web in the early days is that you were able to reach an audience that traditional media may not have hit directly,” Tatta said.
“And if you look at any one of the early adopters of technology, they have higher disposable income, they tend to buy more technology software than others,” he said.
Lagardere has been active on the interactive front, especially for Elle.com and Ellegirl.com, sites for the Elle and Elle Girl magazines.
For instance, a partnership between Elle.com and upscale department store brand Saks Fifth Avenue was announced in January. Elle editors choose apparel from Saks for sale on Elle.com.
In a separate deal, Elle.com has allied with MSNBC.com for an online survey of men and women on office intimacy and romance. The results will be published online in mid-May and in the June issue of Elle magazine.
More recently, Lagardere signed a deal to use ActiveBuddy Inc.'s interactive agent technology. A new EllegirlBuddy allows Ellegirl.com users to instantly send messages to each other — an attempt to build a global community of teen girls.
To drive traffic on these sites, Lagardere constantly runs contests, sweepstakes and promotions. A partnership with teen media firm Alloy Inc. for special events online seems to be working as well.
And this week, on March 14, consumers will be invited to join Elle.com at Saks Fifth Avenue's flagship store in New York for a range of free beauty services from Elizabeth Arden Red Door Salon & Spa and MAC. Participants can then enter a sweepstakes via telephone or Elle.com to win a spring outfit.
The company will leverage all its assets to promote the wireless Web effort. Initially, readers of the print magazines and users of the Web sites will be informed. Marketing deals and affiliate relationships will follow.
“The whole premise behind Lagardere Active is to exploit emerging platforms and to leverage our core content assets across other platforms,” Tatta said. “We firmly believe that broadband and wireless are kind of next-generation platforms and very much the same way the Web was a few years ago.
“Early entry into the platforms,” he said, “will enhance our competitive advantage and differentiate our offerings versus competitors' offerings. And aside from that, hopefully it will prove out the economics.”