US consumer magazine publishers are busily pumping out brand extensions in all shapes and sizes. Karlene Lukovitz looks at two manifestations of this, and promises more in future columns!
New magazine brand extensions and platform partnerships or acquisitions have become daily events.
Here are some picks of notable ones culled from recent news. These exemplify but two of the many platforms and approaches that are proving fertile ground for extensions. (Others, including ecommerce, events, branded licensing ventures and more, will require exploration in a subsequent column.)
* “New Breed” Apps: Tablet app editions of regular magazine issues — particularly resolution-upgraded for viewing on the new iPad — are visually stunning and increasingly easy to navigate, so the rapid growth in their uptake, both as individual purchases and as part of paid print-sub bundles, is hardly surprising. Critics continue to note that relatively few fully exploit interactive capabilities, but there are a growing number of apps conceived and designed as spin-offs that leverage the print brand’s strengths within platform-unique experiences, as opposed to offering near-replicas of the print magazine plus some interactive features.
One is the National Geographic Today iPad app. As Media Industry Newsletter (MIN) noted, this app “dazzles” with full-screen images of NG’s renowned photographs, combined with carefully curated bits of topical and “random” edit content designed to lure quick-scanning digital users into exploring previous days’ content in video, article, gallery and featured photos formats. All content is surrounded by social / sharing tools, including an easy Facebook-wall-comments-posting capability.
Another is American Media Inc’s EnquirerPlus iPad app. Attracting younger audiences is more or less apps’ raison d’être, and publishers generally say that the bulk of app users are indeed new brand converts. But the EnquirerPlus app may prove a particularly dramatic example of this. It might even prove something of a saviour for AMI, given National Enquirer’s heavy reliance on newsstand sales and that channel’s well-documented challenges. (While still #12 among top-selling ABC US-audited newsstand pubs, Enquirer’s average per-issue 2H 2011 newsstand sales were down 11.4%, to 533,308 — a sliver of its 1978 peak circ of 5.7 million.)
Within two weeks of its release in mid April, EnquirerPlus was #15 among the top-grossing periodicals in the App Store’s entertainment section, MIN reported. Given its low pricing ($0.99 per weekly issue, $2.99 per month, $29.99 per year), that clearly means that it’s selling a high volume of units / downloads. AMI’s stated goal was “reinventing” the Enquirer for a younger audience, and they do seem to have bred a new animal. The app offers some content from the print edition, but it’s rewritten for the young demographic. More important, the app is updated daily with the latest celebrity content, and its format is totally swipe- and social media-friendly. It’s heavy on big images and headlines and light on text, and readily zooms up to fill the screen. With a tap, users can join in on Twitter conversations (or “like” content on Facebook), without leaving the page they’re viewing.
Free, ad-supported spin-offs are another variation. For instance, version 2.1 of Financial Times’ How to Spend It app reflects the success of the original version (100,000+ downloads within seven months and, according to FT, profitable at launch due to advertisers’ enthusiasm about its interactive reach to affluent users). This one delivers 80 searchable back issues of the magazine (with content organised by subject, rather than issue), plus daily news / features updates (some exclusive to the app, some posted prior to appearing in print), and a gift guide that’s also updated daily. Meredith’s TradHome, a free-with-registration Traditional Home extension that’s available both online and for mobile devices, recently published its second spring edition spotlighting hot home-design trends. The first generated 25 million page views and 170,000 unique visitors.
* Branded Entertainment: Where to begin? Well, magazine-branded YouTube channels are certainly proliferating.
Rodale jumped in with a health / fitness-oriented “3V” channel, which offers video shorts like fitness gurus tackling extreme workouts and comedians cracking wise about fitness-related videos found around the web. Rodale is now developing a separate YouTube channel devoted to healthy-eating content.
Hearst’s new “Hello Style” YouTube channel, a collaboration among Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Harper’s Bazaar, Seventeen and Real Beauty, is turning the magazines’ most popular features / departments into mini-shows like “VPL-Visible Panty Lines” (celebrity fashion / style). Hearst’s Car and Driver TV channel, spanning its automotive brands, will offer service / reality programming. (And BTW, YouTube contributed a cool $10 million to help Hearst kick-start its YouTube programming… which no doubt will also be supported by ample advertising.)
Meredith’s Video Studios — an entire unit devoted to creating original, branded programming - is launching “Digs,” starting with seven original home / garden-oriented series offering five-minute reality concepts with “an edge”. Example: a “domestic queen” who records her every move on her blog.
Another interesting recent platform launch from Meredith: “Parents Radio” — a limited-run series on SiriousXM Radio featuring parenting / family topics discussions by Parents Magazine’s editors and guest experts.
Need I mention Condé Entertainment? While that über-ambitious venture hasn’t (as of this writing) yet announced its inaugural magazine-inspired video, TV, movie or digital launches, its chief, former CW network president Dawn Ostroff, has been assembling a team of honchos recruited from the likes of Imagine Entertainment, Walt Disney, Fox and the Sundance Channel. (With this cast, the expectation levels are mounting fast…)
Again, these examples are but a tip of the proverbial iceberg, brand extensions-wise. Stay tuned for more instalments.