The traditional magazine publishing model is changing. More multi-title publishers are changing from their title-publisher sales models to group models. Is this a case of “out with the old and in with the new” — or can both models still be viable?
The group sales model
Traditional print publishers are taking a cue from digital media companies. Instead of selling a single brand, their group models are centralized approaches that allow them to sell across ad categories such as food and pharma. Their cross-brand sales models enable cost savings and consolidation of resources across creation, printing, distribution, digital, events, IT, and — perhaps most important — sales. It also provides greater opportunities for larger cross-brand and cross-media sales bundles.
Two noted examples of this shift are Time Inc. and Paper Communications. Time executives removed the publisher title from their 22 magazines and, instead, their ad team now sells around 11 ad categories. A new media group bought Paper Communications, which will spread its ad sales categories across platforms other than the print magazine, such as digital and multimedia.
Maintaining magazine independence
In other situations, retaining the traditional publishing model, in which each title is a separate entity with a unique income stream, makes sense. For niche publications with passionate followings and experts with deep knowledge on how to sell ads specific to those niches, the group model may not be a good choice. For instance, a publisher could lose credibility by making the mistake of asking a salesperson who specializes in an aquarium enthusiast title to sell woodworking or coin collecting ads for a hobbyist group.
Ad buyers often have long-standing personal relationships with brand representatives. In these cases, it’s important to employ savvy salespeople who fully understand the subject matter, client, and audience.
Which option is best?
Although the trend in multi-title publishing is leaning toward the group sales model, how can you know if it’s right for your organization? Carefully analyze your business: Are the time and cost efficiencies you could gain by consolidating services into a group model worth the loss of a deeply engaged sales staff and legacy relationships?
Often, the decision to take a group approach depends on whether you want to reach a wider audience with a title — perhaps at the expense of specialized knowledge — or retain niche status at the expense of a broader audience. It may be that maintaining a category structure as the foundation but combining it with brand and digital teams is the right solution.
If you’re considering the change to a group structure, determine how to handle the publisher role. Should you create a group publisher position? Replace publishers with category revenue leaders? Remember, title publishers usually possess a wealth of knowledge about their magazines and audiences. Retaining that intel in some capacity would be a smart move.
When making your decision, plan the transition carefully — and keep careful metrics. There could be resistance among staff. It will likely take a great deal of cross-training among titles, and you will also need to educate your audience and advertisers on the changes — and the benefits those changes offer. Consider a gradual approach, moving a few titles to the new model to determine whether to shift your entire organization to the new structure.
The main thing to keep in mind: Whichever publishing model you choose and however you implement it, keep your audience at the heart of your decision.
Contact your Sheridan representative or visit our contact page to ask how we can help you streamline your publishing processes, reduce costs, and keep up with changes in print and publishing strategies.