In the latest effort to monetize every bit of magazine content any way possible, publishers are starting to make the products in their titles' editorial coverage available for sale online. People Group Digital and Dennis Digital have started working with a company called Delivery Agent to do for People Style Watch and Maxim what it already does for shows such as "Grey's Anatomy": let consumers buy just about anything they see there. And publishers get a cut of any sales that result.
Holiday gift guide
People Style Watch has set up a holiday gift guide (people.com/giftguide), and products from the guide also appear on Delivery Agent's SeenOn.com, which includes links to buy editorially recommended products from the likes of Club Monaco, Gap, Nokia, Polaroid and Sephora. And consumers are noticing the offers: unique visitors to SeenOn.com totaled 829,000 in October, according to Nielsen/NetRatings.
"We are constantly trying new and innovative ways to connect with our consumers," said Fran Hauser, general manager of People Group Digital. "Our editors have been giving trusted recommendations in the magazine for years. Expansion of our business digitally has given us the opportunity to not only provide a product recommendation but also enable direct purchase."
Maxim is on SeenOn.com too but also has opened Shop.Maxim.com in partnership with Delivery Agent.
Other publishers have similar offerings. Conde Nast Publications' Domino, for example, lets readers click to buy on DominoMag.com.
Products as content
The idea owes a lot to the increasing importance of products in magazine pages, said Delivery Agent CEO Mike Fitzsimmons. "So much of the content that we consume is product-driven," he said. "If you look at any of these publications, you'll see more information about products -- and products become the content."
It's also a function of readers' growing belief that they should be able to interact with magazine brands in all kinds of ways. "Our audience is expecting more from the magazine," said Russell Kern, director-business development, Dennis Publishing's Dennis Digital division. "It's no longer just about the print publication, even though that's still the core business we have. Now it's not just about reading about products. It's giving our audience the opportunity to buy them."
Changing business conditions can also nudge magazines to think creatively. Maxim's 2006 ad pages, for example, will be down about 5% from 2005, which in turn saw ad pages fall 6.2% from 2004, according to Dennis and the Publishers Information Bureau. With each decline, finding revenue beyond ad-page sales becomes more important.
Meaningful revenue stream?
Whether readers will buy enough to make an impact on anyone's bottom line is still unclear. "It's too early to tell how meaningful the revenue stream will be," Mr. Fitzsimmons said. "We hope we can provide an added-value feature that will help drive readership and help drive some incremental revenue along the way."
Mr. Kern said Dennis Digital wouldn't have done the deal if it didn't believe there was a revenue opportunity. "It's a good brand extension and provides a good service to the readers, but it had to be a business decision," he said. "Will it be a major contributor? It'll be an additional component to the bottom line. If you get a couple of those, it begins to add up."