Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Putting the special in special interest publications

Special interest publications -- spinoffs from a core magazine -- are definitely a growth area for traditional publishers, according to Maryam Sanati, editorial director for special projects,   responsible for the production of SIPs at Toronto Life. She told an audience of Toronto-based editors on Wednesday that one of her goals is to "surrender to the consumer" and, meeting their needs, have the newsstand-only products leap off the racks. Among the SIPs her division produces are a Real Estate annual, the Stylebook and Toronto Weddings. She had a number of tips for her fellow editors attending the seminar presented by the Canadian Society of Magazine Editors (CSME).:
  • Build on your publication's core competencies -- in Toronto Life's case, food and dining, real estate, style
  • Be as specific as possible
  • Plan ahead and organize seasonally
  • Be nimble and seize opportunities
  • Repurpose what you can from the main book, but fund what you can't to give readers the best experience
  • Very specific, very vertical = very successful
"We used to do 'the most', but now we do 'the best''" she said. Toronto Life used to rely heavily on listings and directory information that's now most likely to be delivered online. But since joining this spring, she's been imposing a longer-term plan and scheduling. "This is definitely a growth area for the company."
Ryan Kennedy, an associate senior editor for The Hockey News said that the most important thing about their program of SIPs is to get the opportunity to explore a tangential topic with greater appeal to casual fans and the newsstand -- things such as their "Greatest masks of all time" or a commemorative issue on the Olympics. Where a typical biweekly issue of THN might be 64 pages, an SIP might be very topical but with a longer shelf life, sell for a bigger price and be up to 200 pages with better quality stock and binding. "It's a treat for the readers," he said. Sell-through is strong, too, with a "Top 100" issue selling 55% of the draw.
Unlike Toronto Life, which operates as an autonomous division,  the SIPs at THN are done as extensions of work of the regular staff.
A good example of a departure from the regular editorial is an SIP called Fully Loaded, essentially a gear and lifestyle title aimed at consumers strictly on the newsstand. It also allows the sale of advertising to a wider range of clients. It has been so successful that it is now being produced four times a year. Unquestionably sexier than THN, with features on cheerleaders and players' expensive cars, it is aimed squarely at a young male audience; Kennedy said it was sort of a "Maxim for hockey".
He said a key to their success is that they are the "experts of our brand". "When it comes to SIPs, that's when we can spread our wings."

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