Rodale Tests Multimedia Approach to 'Yoga Life' Trial

Newsstand Issue, Web Site and Podcasts All on Offer

By Published on .

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Rodale, publisher of Prevention and Men's Health and innumerable books that focus on a healthy, balanced lifestyle, hopes to lure some of America's estimated 16.5 million yoga enthusiasts with Yoga Life, a test that hit magazine racks May 2.
The premiere issue of 'Yoga Life.'
The premiere issue of 'Yoga Life.'

The issue on newsstands, however, appears to be just one piece of a multimedia strategy to grab the yoga-loving audience. A web site(www.iyogalife.com) is already live and features podcasts, an e-mail newsletter and an area to buy Rodale books on yoga techniques and thought. The site also includes several areas soliciting reader feedback, another way to test the waters.

96-page issue
The first 96-page issue includes 17 pages of ads from marketers including Asics sneakers, Ford Motor Co., Matrix hair products, LuluLemon yoga and sports gear, Yogafit.com and organic food label Kashi. The test issue will be available until July 25.

For the time being, however, Rodale is making no commitments to Yoga Life beyond this first issue. "We publish many single-topic issues every year. We are already successful with content in the yoga space as reflected in Prevention, Women's Health, Runner's World and Men's Health. It is a topic of interest to our readers. We've put out one issue of Yoga Life, and we'll wait to see the consumer response,” Rodale spokeswoman Mia Carbonell said.

To date, the niche market of yoga magazines has been dominated by San Francisco-based Yoga Journal, a monthly started more than 30 years ago by the California Yoga Teacher's Association. Yoga Journal has had a 95% increase in circulation compared to five years ago, following a repositioning by a new owner. Its average circulation, according to Audit Bureau of Circulations, is 325,000 and sells 102,888 of those copies at the newsstand.

Selling an exercise or a philosophy?
Yoga has exploded as an exercise trend, and more magazines have cropped up as a result. True yoga is, after all, more than just exercise, it is a life philosophy. How that philosophy takes shape -- from seemingly unattainable (for most of us) vegan and minimalist ideals to more grounded approaches, such as making your kids' quick breakfasts more nutritious or how to fight fairly with your spouse -- is exactly what these magazines offer. While lesser-known yoga magazines (Yoga International, Fit Yoga and Yoga for Every Body, to name a few) focus on the former aspirations, Yoga Life, and Yoga Journal to a lesser extent, focus on the latter: "Just try worrying about your credit card debt while you're standing on your head," reads one Yoga Life tidbit.

Yoga Journal's longevity and present-day dominance relies largely on its ability to appeal to both the hard-core trade audience and the interested consumer, particularly since John Abbot took over the helm as president-CEO in 1998. Whereas the magazine had strayed toward new-agey topics, Mr. Abbot refocused it on yoga and a yoga lifestyle. Polly Perkins, a consultant to Yoga Journal throughout 2002 and 2003, said, "Yoga Journal is to yoga what Architectural Digest is to home furnishings: They have both a large trade and a large consumer following."

The most current issue carried 71 ad pages out of 148 pages, including marketers such as Aveeno, Fila, Eileen Fisher, Toyota, Millstone Coffee and Oxi-Clean.

Steeped in health and fitness
Yoga Life does not have the built-in teacher base that Yoga Journal does, but Rodale is deeply steeped in fitness and health content. At first glance the magazine is a graphically compelling look at balancing yogic beliefs with a modern woman's lifestyle. To wit, the Web site examines how four women have been affected by yoga and how they keep it part of their busy lives. In focusing more on the consumer's life, Yoga Life gives off a down-to-earth point of view in an industry that can seem to have very lofty and sometimes unlivable ideals. "Yoga Journal is more about the personal journey; I'm not going to take something from that magazine and share it with my kids. Yoga Life looks like it may give me ideas on how I can share it with my kids," Ms. Perkins said.

There is, without a doubt, an audience -- and a market interested in yoga. Yoga Journal's own 2004 survey revealed that Americans spend nearly $3 billion annually on yoga products. Seventy-seven percent of the 16.5 million who practiced yoga in 2004 were women, and 30% of U.S. practitioners have a household income of more than $75,000.

So far, as fears that yoga is a fad that has already reached its apex, Ms. Perkins said, "I think John Abbott says it best: Yoga is a 5,000-year-old fad that enjoys the occasional growth spurt." She added: "When it's something you find woven into the very fabric of society -- yoga in hospitals, meditation in schools -- you know it is not going to go anywhere anytime soon. Running was a fad of the '70s, but people are still running."
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