'DotCEO' doesn't launch as planned

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The constellations are not aligned for the launch of new print magazines. Print advertising is softening as paper prices and postal rates are rising. And considering the platoon of ex-dot-comers now searching for work, prospects are even less auspicious for products with "dot-com" in the title.

With these economic realities in mind, the Chief Executive Group, publisher of Chief Executive, has put on indefinite hold plans to launch dotCEO as a bimonthly and instead introduced the magazine as a custom-published title available to marketers for sole sponsorships.

The first issue was sponsored by Accenture (formerly Andersen Consulting) and was polybagged along with the January issue of Chief Executive, which launched in 1977 and now has a controlled circulation of 42,000. Accenture ran 10 ads in the 64-page issue at a total cost of $200,000.

dotCEO will be distributed to 8,000 CEOs nationwide who are in charge of pure-play dot-coms. "We need to reach out to this community and bring them into the community of CEOs," said Carol Evans, publisher of Chief Executive and dotCEO.

The sponsorship approach represents "an unusual opportunity for marketers because this product will allow them to cut through the clutter and have a little breathing room," Evans said. "We can take the energy of the magazine and have that translate to the sponsor’s brand."

Custom experience

The Chief Executive Group has more than 16 years experience in custom publishing. Its CEO Guide, which tackles a single business strategy in each issue, has run three times a year since 1984. "We have a deep knowledge of our readers and know how to drive a marketing product," Evans said.

Another custom issue of dotCEO is slated for the fall. Evans said there would be "no problem" landing another sponsor and she would not rule out a spring and/or summer issue. But it’s unlikely that dotCEO’s frequency in 2001 will match the original plan for a bimonthly.

"They were right to dial it back," said Gene DeWitt, chairman of the New York-based advertising agency Optimedia International. "There’s going to be a lot of caution in the coming year, particularly for new ventures." He added that dotCEO is a "great concept. If they can execute it well it will be a valuable resource since [CEOs] are a very hard group to reach. But I wouldn’t want to jump in with both feet."

All in the timing

Although dotCEO may not have legs to run six times a year right now, Chief Executive executives are confident about the title’s long-term prospects as a stand-alone. "What’s happening in the marketplace is bigger than we are," Evans said. "dotCEO can play in our company but it has to be the right place at the right time."

John Brandt, editorial director of the Chief Executive Group and dotCEO, said, "We were all geniuses" nine months ago, prior to the bottom falling out of the Internet market. "It looked like a great idea at the time, and it’s still a great idea. But when you look at what’s going on with a lot of the new economy titles we thought it would be more sensible to take a conservative approach."

Asked how dotCEO will distinguish itself from other business magazines, Brandt said: "We want to provide content that will specifically address the 'C' in the CEO title, where the person has different concerns than other [top] executives: Where do I get the money? How do I find talent? We’re going at it from a more strategic level rather than a tactical one."

For example, the debut issue of dotCEO features articles on "How to hire a president" and "Bad advice," a rather timely piece on how one dotCEO got all kinds of advice on how to fund his start-up company and did exactly the opposite in his quest for venture capital.

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