NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Synergy couldn't deliver on the grand dreams of AOL Time Warner, but it still has life at the Time Inc. magazine division.
Later this month readers of five fairly dissimilar sibling titles -- Time, Fortune, People, Sports Illustrated and Entertainment Weekly -- will find each magazine giving big editorial coverage to the subject of new-wave 3-D.
Each magazine will fill its section on 3-D, which was ordered up by corporate executives, its own way. Time is reporting on the new wave of 3-D movies, while Sports Illustrated is running a 3-D photo section.
All the magazines will include 3-D glasses. And they'll all be supported by ads from McDonald's, a marketing partner for DreamWorks Animation's upcoming "Monsters vs. Aliens"; from Real D, a technology company devoted to 3-D; and from HP and Intel, partly because DreamWorks uses HP computers.
Critical editorial not an issue
What would have happened if Fortune, for example, came back with an article arguing that 3-D was a doomed fad, not the future of cinema at all? That problem didn't arise, said John Huey, editor in chief of Time Inc. "It isn't something I had to deal with."
When added together, the magazines' paid circulation guarantees to top 12 million.
One result of the project is that McDonald's is appearing in Fortune for the first time. Another is that editorial and advertising have a splashy new way to work together. Supplements such as Conde Nast's "Fashion Rocks" have appeared with multiple magazine brands before, but this approach seems like one step further.
"There are many magazines that looked at the same event from multiple locations and interpreted it for their audiences," said Paul Caine, president-group publisher of Time Inc.'s style and entertainment unit. "This is the first time we actually organized it as a thought that advertisers could then support."
The unusual section gave HP a chance to get attention, said David Roman, VP-marketing for HP's Personal Systems Group. "It's the type of thing people will notice more," he said.
In better economic times and with less competitive pressure, it's conceivable that editors would have resisted the arrangement because of fears that the advertising might appear to unduly influence what is running on editorial pages.
Time Inc. said the project started, however, with the editorial side. Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of DreamWorks Animation SKG, called Mr. Huey to pitch the subject, Mr. Huey said. "I said, 'What magazine are you pitching for anyway?' He said 'All of them.'"
Promoting 3-D technology
At last year's American Magazine Conference, Mr. Katzenberg appeared as part of the program, and he spent much of his time on stage explaining to magazine editors and publishers why he thought the new 3-D technology was going to be the next big thing. He predicted that consumers would soon want to invest in a pair of 3-D glasses the way they used to invest in a pair of bowling shoes. It will come to be seen as a must-have piece of entertainment equipment, he said. Presumably, his pitch to Time Inc. aimed to get out a similar message.
Mr. Katzenberg has heavily promoted 3-D in the run-up to the release of "Monsters vs. Aliens" in 3-D on March 27, even running a 3-D Super Bowl spot for the movie.
But he's not alone. Hollywood is also banking on 3-D as a driver of ticket sales. Nielsen recently issued an "Industry Outlook" that said 3-D movies got 60% higher gross sales thanks to higher ticket prices and higher attendance.
Lionsgate released "My Bloody Valentine" in 3-D last January; NBC ran a 3-D episode of "Chuck" on Feb. 2; February saw Disney put out "Jonas Brothers: The 3-D Concert Experience" and Universal release "Coraline." After "Monsters vs. Aliens" comes Fox's "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs," Pixar's "Up" and Fox's "Avatar," a James Cameron film due at year's end.
But the credit crunch has hurt the rollout of movie screens able to show 3-D movies. A year ago, DreamWorks said it expected that 5,000 3-D screens would be available. But "Monsters vs. Aliens" will go out on only 2,000 3-D screens because theaters are having a hard time getting financing to make the expensive changeover in equipment.