City Publisher Sets Out to Dominate Atlanta

Affluent Audience Wants Mix of Light Features and Investigative Stories

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Despite the recent death of Absolute magazine in New York, local luxury books remain one of the busiest corners of magazine publishing. Now Ocean Drive Publishing Group, which already publishes titles for the affluent in cities like Miami and Las Vegas, is rolling out a magazine for wealthy Atlantans. Jerry Powers, president, talked about the sector's heavy competition, light content and how to stay in business.
Jerry Powers

MediaWorks: Just as your Ocean Drive Publishing Group is introducing Atlanta Peach, Modern Luxury is launching The Atlantan; will wealthy readers be able to tell the difference?

Jerry Powers: We hope that readers will see the difference in content and the difference in the kinds of magazines we do.

We spend a lot of money on editorial and on content. All of our content is unique for Atlanta. We publish Ocean Drive in Florida and Vegas magazine; we don't pick up content and roll it into another magazine. We use no pick-up art; we physically shoot every product shot, every photograph ourselves. We spend about 15 times what they do per editorial page in content.

Our book is very, very event driven. In the Miami area for Ocean Drive we do two events a week -- about 125 to 140 events a year. We hope by the end of the year we'll be up to the same kind of schedule for Atlanta.

MediaWorks: Magazines aimed at the affluent tend toward soft lifestyle coverage. Do readers, or advertisers, have the stomach to handle content that is less "safe"?

Mr. Powers: Ocean Drive does major investigative stories -- we just did one about going to a rain forest down in Peru, and we are covering a high-end couple on the way to divorce. While most of these magazines are keeping it very soft and run photos and pages of client parties, we don't do that. We cover events, the night scene, society, but we're not a buy-an-ad, get-a-story kind of book.

MediaWorks: Is there still room for a new city-specific title in Atlanta, which has been booming for a long time already?

Mr. Powers: We chose Atlanta as a market because it's a city with a whole lot of urbanism going on. To me it's like the Paris of the South. This is a real city. There's got to be investigative, lifestyle and trend reporting. Atlanta is the home of 40 to 50 of the Fortune 500 companies. We're seeing there's an emerging café society here in Atlanta. In my opinion there is that demand for ... heavy hitting reporting.

MediaWorks: Absolute, a luxury book for New Yorkers, recently folded after about a year. What's the key to success in this field?

Mr. Powers: I've never had the luxury of doing what Absolute did. I've never been lucky enough to have somebody give me millions for promotions. If you invest heavily in the launch of a new magazine, from a cash register point of view, it takes a long time to recoup. You've got to have staying power. With us, we go in on a new launch for maybe $750,000, but most of that is sponsored.

And we're not going to write about the 10 best schools or 10 best landlords, and we're not going to run pages on the best lawyers, when each lawyer has to buy a little listing. We're not going to be that old city book.

In the years Ocean Drive has been publishing, about 23 magazines have come into compete with us in the Miami area. In Atlanta, there's 11. Our business plan says all the 11 magazines in the market go. Only because we've done it before.

MediaWorks: How does your exclusivity deal with two Simon Property Group malls work?

Mr. Powers: One of the challenges today, with newsstands being so difficult for premium positioning, is using newsstands as an incredible venue for sales. As it gets more difficult, we have to get more creative to get our magazines out there.

So we've signed an exclusivity deal with Simon to put up signs up that say there are Atlanta Peach lounges near high-end parts of the malls, with sofas and constantly restocked copies of Atlanta Peach. It's a three-year deal. We're going to do 40% to 50% of our entire distribution through these malls.

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