Sponsored Magazines: Competition for Special Interest Publishers?

Article excerpt

Sponsored magazines: Competition for special interest publishers?

Can you visualize the amount of money spent on advertising in the United States this year? Imagine an enormous pie stuffed with 100 billion $1 bills. Then think of yourself, knife in hand, taking your slice of the pie.

If you're with a consumer magazine, you and your competitors can expect to share about one-twentieth of that $100 billion pie. A $5 billion slice sounds like a lot of dessert, but competition for those dollars is fierce.

Sponsored magazines, a close cousin to consumer magazines, also seem to be hovering around the pie, ready to snitch a piece for themselves. No one keeps track of just how much of the pie ends up on custom publishers' plates, but those publishers are now producing more than 3,000 titles for their clients--and the number is growing every year.

Are these sponsored magazines really in competition with consumer books? Yes and no.

Sponsored magazines are hybrids. They combine the targetability and timeliness of direct mail advertising with the graphic appeal, believability and staying power of consumer magazines. They are most successful for companies and associations that need to communicate with a carefully and specifically defined audience. This means they're not for everyone. Readers must have some unifying interest or need that a magazine can address. Also, the targeted audience should total more than 50,000 to allow the publishers to take advantage of printing economics.

Sponsored magazines can't reach a mass audience as well as national print and broadcast media can. But they can reach a specific, defined audience in a way general interest magazines and television never can. Consequently, they appear to be the biggest competitive threat to narrow interest consumer magazines.

Three important advantages

* Timing: The sponsor sets the publishing calendar, allowing distribution of the magazine when it best serves a marketing purpose. The sponsored magazine doesn't need a consistent publishing schedule to accommodate the needs of several advertisers. So, a snowmobile manufacturer could publish its own magazine eight times a year--once a week in November and December--then close down for 10 months and still meet its marketing goals.

* Complementary content: Editorial matter in sponsored magazines is designed to support marketing goals. No other medium can cost-effectively provide space for how-to-use features and company histories and achievements, or guarantee the absence of material detrimental to the sales effort. For example, a story about traffic accidents being the number-one killer of American teenagers would never appear in an auto company magazine, nor would the latest hijacking story be detailed in travel club publications. …