Brownridge's Plan to Boost Dennis Titles? Cross-Selling

New Owner Wants to Integrate Ad-Sales Teams, Offer More Package Deals

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- It'll still be a couple of months before Kent gets the keys to Dennis Publishing, but here's what employees can expect to hear from their new boss: Pull down the walls between magazine brands and learn to play nice together.
Kent Brownridge will succeed Stephen Colvin as CEO of newly acquired Dennis Publishing.
Kent Brownridge will succeed Stephen Colvin as CEO of newly acquired Dennis Publishing.

Mr. Brownridge, the 65-year-old publishing veteran, already has a pretty clear idea how he's going to go about recouping the $240 million he and his backers at Quadrangle Group just paid for Maxim, Blender and Stuff.

"We're going to take this company, which has some pretty outstanding components, and we're going to tie it together, much more as a package kind of offering, and present that to advertisers who are looking for that sort of thing," Mr. Brownridge told Advertising Age on June 15.

For the ad-sales teams at Dennis, tying it together means no more work without coordination. Media buyers describe the sales teams there -- for each magazine and for digital platforms -- as nearly independent entities. Once the regime change arrives, Mr. Brownridge's well-known penchant for sales-call reports and cross-sharing will come into play. No one will receive an advertiser's request for proposals without letting the rest of the company's sales team know.

Part of the hope is to improve the ad-page story so far this year. Through June, Maxim's pages are down 2.6%, Blender's are flat and Stuff's are off 5.7%, according to the Media Industry Newsletter.

Talk but no action
Plenty of magazine publishers say they have integrated their sales, of course, some to lesser degrees than others, while media agencies remain fairly compartmentalized. "It's like the farmers and the weather," Mr. Brownridge said. "Everyone's talking about it, but nobody is doing anything about it."

Beth Fidoten, senior VP-director of print services at Initiative, said the sale and integration both could serve Dennis well. "We think that integrating the sales team and lessening the sales teams between print and digital is a good thing," she said. "Kent Brownridge, with his background at Wenner, where Rolling Stone and Men's Journal are all about men, knows the market and has a good shot."

For the editors in chief at the three magazines, Mr. Brownridge's arrival may mean new incentives tied to newsstand performance. And don't look now, but single-copy sales in the second half of last year fell 12.2% at Maxim, 23.4% at Blender and 34.9% at Stuff, according to reports with the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

It's too early to say whether those editors -- Jimmy Jellinek at Maxim, Craig Marks at Blender and Dan Bova at Stuff -- will all stay put.

Uncertainties
Mr. Brownridge, who will succeed Stephen Colvin as CEO, downplayed or denied speculation about some of the more visible possibilities that have rippled through the ranks at Dennis, such as shutting down Stuff or laying off staff or moving Blender to a biweekly schedule.

Stuff was conceived partly as a bulwark against eMap's FHM magazine but hasn't shown a lot of momentum or purpose lately, particularly since eMap pulled out of the U.S. last December.

"Stuff is an important part of young men's lifestyle, which we think our whole company is all about," Mr. Brownridge said. "Gear, grooming, clothes and other accoutrements, otherwise known as stuff, are an important part of this overall thing, and we're going to continue to do it."

The 235 Dennis employees, all but 25 of whom work in New York, seem safe for the immediate future. "No layoffs are being contemplated," Mr. Brownridge said. When asked about a newer rumor that Blender would go biweekly, he gave a flat "no."

And finally, for now, given the fact that Quadrangle is buying Dennis as a private-equity investment, just know that Dennis will one day return to the auction block. "Our hope is to make this an enormously successful company from all standpoints you'd expect -- its impact and importance and recognition and awareness and financial success," Mr. Brownridge said. "Somewhere in the future, but not soon, we'll probably sell."
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