Monday, February 11, 2008

Martha Stewart to Launch Oversize Title

Last week, we learned that consumer confidence has hit a low, that employers last month cut jobs for the first time in more than four years, that retailers just suffered the worst January on record, that wage growth has slowed and that the Fed's inflation fears were growing. In the media sector, we absorbed depressing financial results from newspaper companies and learned that revenue was essentially flat again last year at Time Inc., the country's best-known magazine publisher.

You might think that would be enough to make publishers bring back Budget Living magazine, but Martha Stewart has the opposite idea. A prototype concept for a title targeting those in the luxe life envisions the magazine taking on the outsize look-at-me format of W magazine.

But media buyers said it could work -- and augur more to come.

"In most circumstances, high-end advertisers are kind of recession-proof," said Steve Lanzano, exec VP-general manager at MPG. "Secondly, big luxury advertisers want to maintain premium-ness. Big, beautiful photography and pictures allow them to attain the premium pricing."

A spokeswoman for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia wouldn't say much about any big luxe ideas. "We have ideas about all kinds of market segments, including this one and several others," she said. She declined to elaborate.

But publishers increasingly are enthusiastic. Martha's big-and-rich book, should it survive development and reach launch, will share tactics not just with W but also the recently arrived Trump magazine -- whose first shamelessly oversize, 12-inch-by-10-inch cover teased "The Most Refined Superyacht Right Now."

When New York magazine introduced New York Look, a highly visual and polished title devoted to high fashion, last November, it made the spinoff about 15% bigger in size. Affluent homes are already served with big coffee-table periodicals such as Elite Traveler, Cigar Aficionado, Ocean Drive and Palm Beach Cottages & Gardens.

The inverse strategy is just as clearly tactical: Consider Everyday Food, Stewart's digest-size, basic-staple recipe title that's easy for everyday people to carry around. Its readers' household income, according to Mediamark Research's fall report, reached almost $52,822. Cigar Aficionado households, on the other hand, claimed $97,811.

So the concept at Martha Stewart is less innovative than it is jarring amid this economic gloom and, more importantly, part of a growing split in print. Publishers under all kinds of pressure, not least their rising digital competitors, increasingly are setting tough priorities. The result is a widening divide between utility players such as newspapers and lavish showcases like luxury magazines.

This is certainly news given the folding of Blueprint! Read the entire article here.

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