American Express Publishing's monthly Travel & Leisure was instrumental in creating demand for a lot more than those morning pastries last year. It capitalized on its strength to launch not one, but two new titles in 1998: Travel & Leisure Golf and Travel & Leisure Family; both extensions have seen positive results in ad page sales.
Even more impressive than giving birth to two babies in one year, is managing to grow the parent title at the same time.
"The story here is that we were able to introduce two new strong products and keep the big book strong at the same time," says VP-Publisher Ed Kelly. "People worried about cannibalization of staff and advertisers [with the new titles]. So far, that hasn't been an issue."
Travel & Leisure added more than 25 new advertisers last year, including a major boost from the fashion category with marketers including Nautica Enterprises, Polo Ralph Lauren, Jones New York and Giorgio Armani. Ad pages were up 9.4% in 1998 to 1,551.32, the highest in the travel category, according to Publisher's Information Bureau figures.
"We've been after the fashion market forever," notes Mr. Kelly. "They're finally telling us that T&L is the right environment for them. People take notice of fashion advertisers."
"It gives us an upscale and style-conscious readership base within a high quality editorial environment," says Charlie Rutman, exec VP-managing director at Carat, New York, which places media for client Jones New York."It shouldn't come as a surprise that people who are serious about travel are serious about appearance."
Additional noteworthy accounts in 1998 include Volvo Cars of North America, Fidelity Investments, IBM Corp., AXA/Equitable, Woolrich and jeweler Baume & Mercier.
As the proliferation of titles in the industry can attest, travel has become a hot topic. But unlike other magazines that focus more on vacation price, including Arthur Frommer's '98 launch dubbed Budget Traveler, Travel & Leisure positions itself as a lifestyle publication.
"We've reinvented the travel magazine genre," says Nancy Novogrod, Travel & Leisure's editor-in-chief. "We do service journalism in an eccentric way so that we are responsive to kinds of information that affluent readers need."
The magazine has published articles from luminaries such as David Mamet on race-car driving school and Calvin Trillin on the International Date Line in Tonga.
"We often use non-travel writers and photographers, and we reduce destinations down to addresses," adds Ms. Novogrod.
HIGH SUB PRICES
T&L subscriptions cost $33.72, one of the highest prices in monthly consumer magazines. The title can charge as much as it does for subscriptions because of its relationship with American Express cardholders. Over a five year period, the title increased its subscription price 28% (from 26.39 in 1994), and still managed to grow circulation 10% in that same time frame.
In the first half of the year, single copy sales went up a whopping 17.7%. The title then raised its cover price to $4.50, from $3.95. Though single copy sales, given the high price garnered by subscriptions, are not the title's main focus. Managing the rate base and its circulation economics for maximum profit is where American Express focused efforts in the second half.
"We've been consistently pushing through an aggressive pricing strategy with our subscriptions, so at some point our circ numbers were bound to fluctuate," says Mr. Kelly. With the first half circulation at 1.013 million and the rate base at 925,000, T&L was delivering a bonus of more than 80,000 every month.
"It's not necessary to deliver that many. We are managing our rate base intelligently," says Mr. Kelly. T&L alone generates over $33 million in circulation revenue, he adds.
ACCESS AMEX LIST
Advertisers also gain access to consumer profiles from American Express's very extensive database -- 87% of all Travel & Leisure subscribers are American Express card members.
"We generate our top revenue from our subscribers -- that's who we sell to the advertisers," says Mr. Kelly.
The median household income of the Travel & Leisure reader is $108,212; while 37% of readers are said to have a net worth of more than $1 million, according to MediaMark Research Inc.
"We've done a lot with the American Express database as far as analyzing charges and finding out what types of things readers are spending their money on," says Alan Goldin, exec VP-media at DeWitt Media, New York. Agency client BMW runs ads in Travel & Leisure. "Travel & Leisure is a good vehicle for us because we have concrete data on a very affluent, upscale audience. We know what makes them tick."
Travel & Leisure also offers the benefit of its brand that "creates a definite halo effect on anything that touts its name," says Jim Gaines, editor of Travel & Leisure Golf.
"The Travel & Leisure brand offers instant recognition and respect," says Samir Husni, head of the magazine department at University of Mississippi and publisher of Mr. Magazine (mrmagazine.com), which ranked Travel & Leisure Golf among the top 30 launches of the year. "It also helps to be published by American Express, which brings tremendous credibility to the name."
Travel & Leisure Family is still considered a supplement to Travel & Leisure and is planned to be published twice this year. Unlike Travel & Leisure Golf, which has its own editorial and sales staff, Travel & Leisure Family is still produced and sold by the flagship staff.
"The industry is getting smarter about spinoffs because now publishers are testing the waters before running ahead with a full blown launch," says Mr. Husni. What Travel & Leisure Family has in its corner, like Travel & Leisure Golf, is the strong brand name.
"Travel & Leisure Family has been a labor of love and an opportunity for insanity," says Ms. Novogrod. "A lot of us on this staff have children and we all felt that there wasn't a magazine that addressed our needs, so we feel passionately about our new baby."
Travel & Leisure Golf seems to be helping to fill a void in the golf market. Golf & Travel also launched last year, a sign the category is in demand.
Publishers Information Bureau reports 237.14 ad pages last year and more than 30 advertisers including Hugo Boss, Cohiba Cigars, T. Rowe Price and expected golf marketers like Callaway Golf Sales Co., Cobra Golf Co. and Taylor Made.
Mr. Husni notes: "Travel and Leisure Golf will survive. The category is hot."