It occurred to me last night that this magazine could be making a hell of a lot more money if we would just rethink our strategy. We consider ourselves a consumer publication when we are, in fact, a custom one. Here are the two events that got me thinking:
1) I was watching Entourage the other night. Vince was looking for a new agent and each one he met presented him with a branding strategy, which would make his face synonymous with the Vincent Chase "brand." Each agent showed him a popular logo (Ex: Coca-Cola), followed by another popular logo (Ex: Mercedes), followed, finally, by the Vince logo (Ex: His face). I imagine this approach is pretty accurate considering it really is all about branding these days.
2) I looked through our subscription/fulfillment database yesterday and, not surprisingly, I'd say 90% of the people who receive our magazine—free—have Jewish surnames. Of the remaining 10%, I'd guess 8% carry an ambiguous last name and the remaining 2% are the result of common error. (Yes, I know I'm giving us some serious credit by only suggesting a 2% error rate. Guilty as charged.)
The most glaringly obvious examples of custom publications are the magazines you read on airplanes. For instance, American Airlines has a magazine with its name on the cover (as do many airlines). However, when you open it up to read it, the articles aren't about American Airlines. They're interviews, editorials, celebrity profiles, etc... Nevertheless, the American Airlines brand remains top of mind to the reader upon partaking in the magazine. This is genius on AA's part. They have a built-in readership, an advertising campaign that people actually pay attention to and a perfect branding strategy. On top of this, they are building a community, rather than a consumer base. Brilliant.
I would say that our magazine follows in suit, except that our "brand" is Judaism. As illustrated by the database, we have a built-in audience (Jewish people who live in "X" NYC neighborhoods). We also don't necessarily generate many articles relevant to our brand. The only mentions of Judaism in the magazine are the calendar of holidays, a brief and obligatory anecdote about any holiday(s) that falls within the month the magazine comes out and Letters to the Editor that deal with religious subject matter. Otherwise, everything else is ambiguous and the brand—Judaism—is left top of mind. Oh, and as for the building of a community element? Done.
Of course, our core source of revenue is ad dollars, whereas a custom publisher's core source of revenue is their client's marketing budget. A custom publication is usually paid for by the "brand." That's where we fall behind, although I must give us credit—we can certainly deliver a dependable niche audience to an eager advertiser. Now, if only we could get our "brand" (the Jewish readership) to actually pay for our services* on top of generating our regular advertising dollars, we would be in business. Think I should suggest it to the publisher? Yeah, not so much. He knows no one would pay for this crap.
*In this example, "our services" would be defined by continually promoting the "Jewish brand" by keeping it top of mind via our printed publication.