Two more move to custom publishing

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Marketers continue to jump on the custom publishing bandwagon, as this month upscale kitchenware retailer Williams-Sonoma and footwear marketer Timberland Co. send new lifestyle quarterlies into the market.

Williams-Sonoma Taste, a luxurious oversize book focusing on food, entertaining, travel, wine, gardening, restaurants and world-renowned chefs, will be sold in company stores beginning Oct. 23 and at 1,300 newsstands in top markets across the country. Timberland's Mountain Athletics inaugural issue will have an approximate circulation of 500,000. Cover price is $3, available at Timberland specialty retail stores.

LASTING IMPRESSION

"Custom publishing allows a brand to espouse its mission and to give a deep and lasting impression," said Eric Nyman, manager for the Mountain Athletics brand of products and managing editor for the magazine. Launched in 1999, Mountain Athletics is a line of products geared to outdoor athletes. The new title aims to offer compelling content for and by outdoor enthusiasts.

Similarly, Williams-Sonoma Vice Chairman Chuck Williams sees the custom-published magazine venture as an excellent opportunity to have closer relationships with the customer. "The magazine will . . . in essence, reinforce the brand and give another avenue for showing what the company is about," he said.

Unlike Timberland's Mountain Athletics, Williams-Sonoma Taste won't feature any of the company's products. Though Mr. Williams is the founder of and editorial adviser to the magazine and will write a short column in each issue, creative ideas will be the exclusive domain of Editor in Chief Andy Harris.

ABOUT BRANDING

"There will be no influence at all in the magazine to use Williams-Sonoma products," said Mr. Harris, formerly executive editor of Australia's Vogue Entertaining & Travel and before that at Elle and Conde Nast Traveler. "The company already has a very successful catalog -- the magazine is really more about branding and introducing our readers to more inspirational ideas about food, drink, travel and entertaining."

San Francisco-based Weldon Owen Publishing will publish Taste, with U.K.-based publisher John Brown Publishing as consultant. As part of a book publishing program started in 1991, Weldon Owen has sold 12 million Williams-Sonoma branded books in the U.S., totaling about $250 million in sales.

Taste will have a first run of 250,000 copies, and a circulation rate base of 125,000. With a cover price of $4.95, the publication will remain a quarterly until January 2002, when it plans to go to every-other-monthly frequency. Subscriptions are expected to rely heavily upon names from the 16 million customer database; customers who receive the Williams-Sonoma catalog; those who register at the company Web site launching this fall; telephone sales; and names culled from a major launch promotion in 185 Williams-Sonoma retail stores. Advertisers in the first issue include Mercedes-Benz of North America, Absolut vodka and Beringer Wines Estates.

Mountain Athletics will not run outside advertisers in its pages. One- and two-year subscriptions will be available to consumers on Timberland's database list, as well as to USA Cycling and the All American Trail Running Association's database listings. Free subscriptions will be offered to customers who purchase Mountain Athletics products and to participants in Timberland's grassroots events and promotional tours.

FOR CHARITY

Also differing from Taste, all revenues from Mountain Athletics sales will go to a national outdoor charity with a devoted program for hiking trail preservation.

Christopher McMurry, CEO of McMurry Publishing and a member of the Magazine Publishers of America's Custom Publishing Council, said there has been a large jump in custom titles aimed at external audiences. "We just completed this year's `Custom Publishing Trends in America's Top Companies' survey, and we're seeing growth in every category of measurement," Mr. McMurry said. Significant increases in the magazine and Internet/e-publishing categories occurred, with jumps of 1.7% and 9.9%, respectively, over last year's portions of the total market.

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