NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Advertisers, recession and technology are conspiring to render still more magazine traditions obsolete. Publishers have already started reporting issue sales more rapidly and frequently than before. They have also started guaranteeing each issue's circulation instead of a longer-term average. Both changes were intended to help magazines maintain their competitiveness. Here, two more changes magazine publishers must make sooner rather than later.
Shorten lead times
Monthlies still haven't been able to extend their awkwardly early deadlines for ad sales -- often two or three months before an issue reaches readers. Now Men's Journal has found a way to extend its ad-sale deadline by three weeks.
"It's all about where you print it, bind it and where you ship it," said Gary Armstrong, chief marketing officer at Wenner Media, which publishes Men's Journal, Rolling Stone and Us Weekly.
So Men's Journal is switching from a printing and distribution facility set up for its monthly schedule and adopting one set up for a biweekly: its sibling Rolling Stone. The lead time at Men's Journal will shrink to 26 days from 47. The same goes for the lag between its editorial deadlines and the day issues reach readers. Other men's magazines labor under lead times over 50 or 60 days.
"Do I think we're going to double our ads?" Mr. Armstrong said. "No. But if we can get an extra five or six ads an issue, that would be five or six advertisers that would be very happy."
"It's not like advertisers don't want to run in the monthly magazines," he added. "They just can't get their budget approved, their creative approved in time."
Eliminate bleed charges
Many publishers are still charging advertisers extra to run ads to the edge of the page, a practice left from the days when going to the edge required extra labor and time.
Advertisers and agencies came out last week against those surcharges. "In the past, publishers may have had 'hard' costs associated with the production of bleed units," they said in a letter signed by the Association of National Advertisers and the American Association of Advertising Agencies. "But today's printing and production technologies no longer require the press stoppages and plate changes that resulted in those real charges for the magazines."
Time Inc., the country's leading magazine publisher, has actually gotten rid of bleed charges over the past few years. Wenner doesn't charge them either. But some Hearst titles, including Cosmo and Esquire, list 15% premiums for ads to the edge. Some Hachette titles have the charge. All Conde Nast titles cite the same 15% extra fee.
Conde Nast and Hachette declined to defend the practice. A spokeswoman for Hearst said she would try to find executives to discuss their bleed charges, but did not do so by deadline.
Bleed charges have outlasted their rationale, in part, because there's probably not much immediate benefit in dropping them. Advertisers won't flood a title's next issue with new ads just because bleed charges disappear. But simplifying pricing, not to mention dropping an apparently gratuitous fee, can only help keep magazines on marketers' and agencies' good side.
Advertisers and agencies made a similar push last year against integration fees, which once compensated broadcasters for the labor required to physically place ads on network airwaves. Advances in technology reduced that labor over the years, but broadcasters kept charging the fees. By last fall, however, it appeared that the broadcast holdouts had relented.