But if you want a bead on the future, better to know your innovators than your followers.
And the story so far for Carolyn Kremins, VP-publisher at Condé Nast Publications' Cookie magazine, suggests that the rewards can also be greater when you mine the tougher seam.
As a mothers magazine that emphasizes style and fashion -- a May feature called "Show Some Skin" told moms how to achieve "sexy, radiant" glows for showing off in sundresses and sandals -- Cookie presents the latest case in point.
The title had reached only its ninth issue when Ms. Kremins arrived in March 2007, and she set about hiring salespeople who come directly from the client side and marketing positions because they understood clients' interests and needs.
"When you have a big vision, you have the best talent, and then you couple that with working smart, we become a trusted partner for our clients," Ms. Kremins says.
And she linked arms with Editor in Chief Pilar Guzmán, forging a creative collaboration intended to benefit both the business and editorial operations. One result: the Word of Mom program, which taps readers to select favored brands and products for star treatment in the magazine, then provides a seal of approval for marketers to include in their advertising.
But Ms. Kremins, 46, has shown us what else can be done before now.
When Britain's Dennis Publishing decided that Maxim could force its way into the U.S. men's market, it stole Lance Ford from Condé Nast to be launch publisher. He took Ms. Kremins with him.
"I insisted that she come too because I needed her," says Mr. Ford, now a principal at web-development company Rebel Digital. "No one gave Maxim a hope in hell. I needed very determined, talented, entrepreneurial executives. We had to do a lot of things very well."
Maxim, of course, rose to become a juggernaut that influenced every established men's magazine over here.
Ms. Kremins then took her touch to The Week, another Dennis import designed to challenge categories we know -- this time, the newsweeklies.