Could Newsweek be past its problems?
Stephen Colvin, president of the Newsweek Daily Beast Company, thinks so.
More importantly, he presents a convincing case that he is correct.
The current issue of the magazine has 32 ad pages, the most in two years. While the days of the publication having six ads might not be over entirely — in the weekly world, ad pages fluctuate wildly from issue to issue — signs are positive.
Toyota returned to the magazine after walking away three years ago because they were not happy with the editorial content. Brands including HDC and Ford Corporate recently signed exclusive deals. Publisher Ray Chelstowski says he closed 40 accounts in 40 days.
Other metrics are impressive as well. According to Colvin, newsstand sales are up 30% from last year, down from the 57% figure for the first couple of Tina Brown issues, but still very solid.
Renewal rates are up 5% and the “blow-in card response is pretty amazing in terms of people who are filling in the cards after buying the magazine on the newsstand.” (Colvin, the former president and CEO at Dennis Publishing, declined to say what the renewal rate is.)
In short, the Tina Brown era is off to an excellent start.
“We took over in February, Tina’s first issue came out in March, and the reaction’s been 99% spectacular to what we’re doing,” Colvin told Business Insider over breakfast on Tuesday morning. “Everyone is so pleased we’re evolving this magazine and taking it to the next level.”
The Media Industry Newsletter pointed out that Newsweek‘s ad pages were down 22.5% over the nine issues starting with March 14’s, but that figure is misleading since it does not account for the full efforts of Chelstowski’s team.
Ad Age said Newsweek was well behind Time in terms of ad pages, but Colvin does not see the book as a competitor.
“I think Newsweek is in its own area under Tina Brown in terms of the DNA of the magazine,” he said. “We’re out there focusing on our own business and making sure that we do what we do as effectively as possible. We’re not looking to the left or the right. We have our own business plan and our own objective.”
While advertising in the newsweekly is a zero-sum game, the president sees Newsweek in a separate category. Since his publication covers so much, he believes they can snag advertisers across many different categories.
“It’s a weekly magazine and we cover a board section of news, whether its current affairs, culture in our Omnivore section, politics, health, science, the full gamut of what this audience is interested in,” he said.
And then there is the Daily Beast, which creates opportunities for cross-platform advertising. While some wonder if the synergy works, Colvin believes having so many outlets for advertisers — there is a fledgling events group as well — helps recruit brands.
“We have a great series with Credit Suisse. We have magazine advertising, website advertising, and then a series of events we do about woman who have been successful not just in business but in life in general,” he said. “We featured Katie Couric a few weeks ago. They have a series of sponsored content on the website that is celebrating women who are blazing a trail.”
The plan seems to be succeeding. Revenue at The Beast is up 300% on the year and traffic has jumped 50%. The visibility of the site will only increase when all of Newsweek.com’s content gets hosted under the Daily Beast banner in the coming weeks.
The plan calls for the magazine and the site to break even by the end of 2012 and be profitable the next year. Both publications are on track to accomplish this task, but there is still work to be done.
“We knew going into this that we were doing a turnaround,” Colvin said.
The 180 is not complete, but it’s certainly headed in the right direction.