HEARST BELATEDLY ENTERS CUSTOM PUBLISHING ARENA: HOME DECOR-THEME 'HUSH' PROMOTES CALIFORNIA CLOSETS

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After watching rivals ring up additional revenue from custom publishing ventures, Hearst Magazines is joining the fray.

The publisher next week unveils a 112-page magazine for client California Closets. The marketer, a regular advertiser in Hearst-owned House Beautiful and Town & Country, wants to bolster its image as interior decorator extraordinaire.

Hearst will produce three issues of Hush, a custom title that will focus on home decor. The first issue will carry no advertising other than that of California Closets; distribution of the 70,000 copies will reach customers through direct mail and franchise locations.

The agreement with California Closets gives Hearst entry into the growing, lucrative custom publishing field, which comprises 5% of the nearly $10 billion spent on magazine advertising each year (AA, Oct. 5).

A LATE ARRIVAL

Hearst, publisher of monthly titles Good Housekeeping and Cosmopolitan, is several years late to the custom game. Competitors Hachette Filipacchi Magazines and Gruner & Jahr USA Publishing began their operations in the early '90s.

Hearst established its custom publishing division last year "out of requests from advertising clients looking for direction on custom projects," said Michael Clinton, Hearst's exec VP-corporate marketing.

"Advertisers are asking that we be a partner with them in retail, database marketing, custom publishing and Web sites," he added. "It's all part of an integrated approach we are establishing to work with the marketplace."

Several other projects for advertisers in the automotive and retail categories are under way for this year, said Michael Hurley, Hearst director of custom marketing.

"The marketers most interested in custom publishing have very aggressive customer retention goals and loyalty programs," he noted.

'GREAT LEADS'

California Closets typically generates "great leads and inquiries" when it advertises in House Beautiful and Town & Country, said Exec VP Edward Lehmann. The company relies on referrals and repeat customers for the bulk of its business, so maintaining relationships and finding ways to stay in front of customers is a challenge.

Along with customer retention, the marketer hopes Hush can convince consumers it offers more than advice on shelf space and shoe racks.

"Fundamentally, California Closets believes its brand is about simplifying life," Mr. Lehmann said. "If California Closets can give you more time to enjoy life, enjoy those quiet moments, than we've done our job."

Approximately 15% of the company's marketing dollars are budgeted for the project.

In 1998, California Closets spent $3.7 million on advertising, all in print, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

ALL-ORIGINAL EDITORIAL

All editorial for the custom book will be original, and concentrates less on pushing products and services of California Closets than the idea of what an organized life can bring.

"The magazine is all about talking to customers about things that really matter," Mr. Lehmann said. "It's not about selling California Closets as it is

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