Rizzoli Extends Its Reach

By Zelkowitz, Suzanne | Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management, June 1, 1991 | Go to article overview

Rizzoli Extends Its Reach


Zelkowitz, Suzanne, Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management


Mention the name Rizzoli and beautifully printed, expensively bound books that belong in walnut-paneled rooms come to mind. That's a venue in which Alfredo de Marzio feels quite comfortable. For 20 years he was a high ranking executive with an oil and chemical business, but 18 months ago he was named the new head of the American arm of RCS Editori, the $2 billion Italian communications giant. He is charged with expanding RCS Rizzoli (the American group) into magazines, as well as strengthening the bookstore franchise and developing new products.

De Marzio has hit the ground running. In February 1990, RCS Rizzoli acquired The Journal of Art, shut it down, and relaunched it as a completely new product last October. The Journal's founder, noted art historian Barbara Rose, retains her position as editor in chief and has kept a minority share along with Alexis Gregory, who is also well known in art circles.

Designed by Milton Glaser in news tabloid format, the magazine is printed on high-quality newsprint-except for the feature well, which contains the only color in the book. De Marzio says affecting a news look was a conscious decision, made to make readers feel they were getting the most up-to-date information on art trends and events, auctions, exhibitions and art world personalities.

Are readers responding? Barely six months into its new guise, The Journal of Art is printing 28,000 copies, according to associate publisher Barbara Hess. As of mid April, there were 11,900 paid subscriptions and 3,600 controlled (2,900 were qualified in April and the process is continuing). Almost 90 percent of the subscriptions are in the United States. Hess expects to drop 300,000 pieces of direct mail in June.

De Marzio has sought out alternative sources for its single-copy distribution, mostly in specialty bookstores, like Rizzoli. The Journal is also on sale in chains like Waldenbooks and B. Dalton. Its distributor, Eastern News Distributors, Inc., has placed the title in seven major U.S. cities, with Rizzoli getting 1,000 of the 11,000 single-sales copies. So far, most of the sell-through is in New York City, says Hess. In addition, roughly 500 copies a month are given away as promos at international and domestic art fairs, where The Journal has a subscription buying service manning a booth on the spot. Seventy percent of single-copy distribution is in the United States, 30 percent overseas.

But American advertisers have been harder to convince than American readers. De Marzio's goal is to pull 70 percent of his ads from the "institutional" category, such as art galleries, and 30 percent from "commercial." To date, commercial advertisers have included high-end, upscale retailers such as Armani; automotive, like Alfa Romeo and Ferrari; and Alitalia. Although he won't name names, he says he is "very close to having American advertisers."

This has been a crash course in publishing for de Marzio, but he is not unfamiliar with the art world. That he was selected as chairman, president and CEO of RCS Rizzoli was no surprise to the literati and members of the art community who have long counted him as a friend and patron of the arts. Now, his avocations-a lifelong interest in the arts, a serious book collecting hobby, time spent involved in corporate sponsorship of the arts and cultural events, as well as his current position as vice chairman of the International Business Committee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art - are being channeled into a second career. He was trained as a lawyer and an economist but now, at 50, he brings his business expertise, and magazine naivete, to "this publishing company devoted to culture," whose mother company posted $63 million in 1990 consolidated profit.

In Italy, RCS Editori publishes two leading newspapers, has a 24 percent market share in book publishing, runs video and movie productions, and publishes 35 consumer magazines.

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