As more and more people turn to digital devices such as a laptop, tablet, or smart phone to read the news or peruse a magazine, print media are gradually declining. As swiping and scrolling down become the tactile acts most often associated with reading to replace good old-fashioned page turning, many magazine companies are getting creative in their attempts to retain some sort of day-to-day relevance.
For some innovators, this means entering the realm of television and video. The two big print media companies that have been engaged in making particularly strong attempts in this arena are Hearst, publisher of Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, Car and Driver, and Marie Clare, among others, and Condé Nast, whose publishing credit include Vanity Fair, Vogue, GQ and Self. Hearst recently purchased a 50% stake in the production company headed by television magnate Mark Burnett, who is responsible for popular reality shows such as The Apprentice and Survivor. Condé Nast has just created their own entertainment division, which is headed by cable TV veteran Dawn Ostroff.
“Everybody has been saying for years that content is king, and there are many different forms of that. These magazines are the highest level of content that there is, and to take that brand of content that now is in magazine form and adapt it to other types—be it television shows, or feature films, or digital channels, and again across the different platforms—means there are going to be many types of opportunities depending on the magazines and what their goals are,” Dawn said in an interview with thewrap.com.
Magazine publishers have tried everything to revive their circulations, from cheap magazine subscriptions to attempts to branch out into the realm of television and movies, but without much success. However, they claim to have learned that, in order to find a sustainable business via TV, the magazine brand and the show have to be seamlessly integrated into one another in order to accomplish their overarching goal—for the TV show to help increase awareness of the magazine brand.
It is not such an easy feat, since magazine content frequently does not translate all that well onto the television or movie screen. In only rare instances do publishers own the show, which would allow them to reap the full benefits of selling ads aired during the program. But even when an attempt at integrated sales in made, the platforms are usually purchased separately.
Hearst has tried and failed before. When they attempted a joint venture with A&E Networks, the parent of Lifetime, to metamorphose their line of women’s magazines into a TV network, the end result was not successful. Likewise, the TLC-created lifestyle show Real Simple, Real Life that was created to complement Time Inc.’s publication Real Simple was only aired for 15 episodes before being pulled
“The last great effort at synergy was Talk magazine, and it just didn’t work,” Michael Hirschorn, CEO and founder of Ish Entertainment and former New York magazine editor, said to adweek.com.
He went on to say that, while magazines can be a great source of material, the shows don’t generate much revenue for the publisher.
“Unless you control every stage of the process, it’s hard to make a big profit in it,” said Hirschorn.
However, there is one success story—Project Runway. The reality TV show hosted by Heidi Klum features up-and-coming fashion designers competing against one another in weekly challenges. The show has generated a lot of money for both Elle and Marie Claire via integrated ad purchases.
What distinguishes the current efforts to place magazines in the television medium by Hearst and Condé Nast is the more voracious appetite for high-quality brand-based video and television content there is that is currently permeating the industry.
Hearst is currently pitching an idea for a show that would be linked to five of their magazine titles to Burnett’s production company, in which they now have a stake.
Some sort of new reality show, perhaps similar to the currently aired, Burnett-produced singing competition The Voice, would, according to Scott Sassa, Hearst’s syndication and entertainment president, be something that not only “provides us with a successful business but allows us to get other things done,” reported by asweek.com. This is because a TV show would open the door to new advertisers for Heart publications.
The Condé Nast entertainment division president Dawn Ostroff has big things in mind. According to adweek.com, Dawn has indicated that she intends to create a library of Condé Nast’s content, along with its personalities, that the publishing giant will be able to market.
“There is an eagerness to have brands carry over to other platforms,” said Ostroff. “So my belief is that a strong brand will be a strong brand across all platforms. It’s across all platforms, but I’m excited about digital content, certainly. You’re looking at Netflix and YouTube and Amazon, all the different companies that are looking for digital content, and Condé Nast, in many regards, is first on their list.”
However, these progressive moves that Condé Nast and Hearst are making in the effort to expand into the realm of television and video are not anticipated to fundamentally alter the primary business model of the publishing companies, but instead act as a means to supplement and sustain the existence of the print media on which the companies are founded.
“Our core product will continue to be our print product,” said Hearst’s marketing president and publishing director Michael Clinton to adweek.com.
“There might be opportunities in traditional media as well. We’re just going to explore everything, and there have been a lot of things that have come up over the past year for Condé Nast,” said Ostroff to the wrap.com.
Non the less, American print magazines popularity is strong around the World, with websites such as acclaimsubscriptions.ca that offer consumers a wide variety of different titles. If these expansion attempts by the big publishing companies are successful, magazine lovers can look forward to leafing through their favourite periodicals for a long time to come.
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