The latest example of marketer-produced media arrives on Tuesday when Red Bull introduces the U.S. edition of its monthly Red Bulletin magazine.
Red Bulletin is starting out with 75,000 copies on newsstands in 20,000 locations, including Barnes & Noble, Target , Walgreens, Kmart, Borders and Safeway, with a cover price of $4.99; a free iPad edition; and subscriptions offered at an introductory rate of $12. But the bigger splash will come on Sunday, when Red Bull sends out 1.2 million copies of the 100-page June issue in newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times, the New York Daily News, the Chicago Tribune, the Miami Herald and the Houston Chronicle. Subsequent issues will appear in the newspapers every month.
Red Bulletin joins other marketers' efforts to build their own media products, such as Procter & Gamble's quarterly Rouge magazine, Johnson & Johnson's Babycenter website and the Kraft Big Fork, Little Fork app for the iPad. They don't always work -- remember Bud.TV? -- but they appeal to marketers because they offer relationships with consumers and control over the environment that regular consumer media doesn't.
Marketers have long paid custom publishers to produce branded magazines for their customers, but Red Bull publishes Red Bulletin through its Red Bull Media House unit.
"We're entering a new age of media in terms of what consumers of content want and expect," said Associate Publisher Raymond Roker. "We really feel that Red Bull and Red Bull Media House are really uniquely positioned to fulfill the promise of the brand that 's been in place for years. Now through the web, the app and print we really feel we can have that conversation in ways that are really unparalleled in the brand space."
Red Bulletin's tag line describes it as "almost independent," a bit of self-deprecating humor that might help readers look past, or appreciate, the Red Bull logos and athlete endorsers on most pages. The cover story features Tim Linceum, the San Francisco Giants pitcher who's sponsored by Red Bull. But there are also features and pages on dance subculture, food, street art and music, from Wiz Khalifa to Bob Dylan. Its production values match those at most consumer magazines.
"It really begins with the people you involve, people who are committed to the journalistic product and storytelling," said Andreas Tzortzis, its U.S. editor. "It's being willing to go to the Atacama desert for a story on scientists who stare up at the heavens or head into New Orleans to talk about brass band culture years after Katrina, as well as more obvious stories about Red Bull-sponsored athletes or events."
Outside advertisers in the magazine include Dyson, Vizio, Zappos and Skullcandy. EA Sports' back-cover ad is an outgrowth of a broader marketing partnership with Red Bull, not a typical ad-page buy, said Christopher Erb, VP-brand marketing for EA Sports.
"We have such joint audience it just made sense," he said. "We did it to celebrate that it was coming to the U.S. and to support our partner. This is our first public show of support for Red Bull. As we move forward you're going to see a lot more stuff, collaborative stuff, through all the content things we do together."
"We don't even look at it as a media buy to be honest," Mr. Erb added. "It's more kind of us putting a page in their book saying welcome to the U.S."
Red Bull already publishes the magazine in countries including Great Britain, Germany, Poland, Austria, South Africa, New Zealand and Kuwait, with distribution totaling 3.4 million before the U.S. edition. Red Bull plans to add further editions later this year and in 2012.