Magazine Launch of the Year: Rachael Ray

Ray's Energy Spills Over as Advertisers Buy in on the Fun

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NEW YORK ( -- Rachael Ray is no Martha Stewart. The self-deprecating TV food- and talk-show host will tell you this up front.

Rachael Ray's 'Every Day With Rachael Ray' was honored as one of two 'Ad Age' Magazine Launches of the Year.

"I always said -- other than getting over the shock that anyone would compare us -- she's much more talented than me in almost every area," says Ms. Ray. "All I can do is make dinner fast, so to compare me to someone who has an empire is very flattering."

Upward of a million readers think there's more to it. Reader's Digest Association's Every Day With Rachael Ray reached total circulation of 826,597 in less than year, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

Since RDA launched the magazine in November 2005, Every Day With Rachael Ray has more than doubled its rate base from 350,000 to 750,000 in August. Next February, the rate base will rise to 1.3 million.

What's most impressive is that people like Ms. Ray and her eponymous magazine so much that they're willing to invest in her long-term via subscriptions.

Before the launch, RD executives expected an 85/15 newsstand-to-subscription ratio. With the December/January issue due out later this year, RD says the magazine will hit the 50/50 mark. "It's our expectation that by the end of '07, we'll have a 35/65 split," said Chris Guilfoyle, Every Day's publisher. "Our subscription conversion rate has been truly unbelievable, and it has not eroded the newsstand, either." Audit-bureau data put single-copy sales at 520,667 for the first half and subscriptions at 305,930.

Editor Silvana Nardone says there's more to it than just the fun of cooking. A big part of the success is that Every Day captures Ms. Ray's sunny, carefree attitude while still providing a hefty dose of recipes, travel and entertainment value, Ms. Nardone says.

"You eat every day, so why not have fun along the way?" Ms. Nardone adds.

In addition to Ms. Ray's signature "30-Minute Meals," Every Day features travel, shopping, money and personal topics.

It's a matter of being relevant, says Jack Hanrahan, U.S. director-strategic print communications at OMD, New York. "It's information and entertainment that people can use," he says. "It's very down-to-earth. Clearly there's a demand for the approach that they've taken."

The journey from TV and books to the magazine world started when Ms. Ray met with RD executives including Bonnie Bachar, president of Reader's Digest U.S. Publishing, in November 2004. Everything jelled quickly, and Ms. Ray had signed a contract by the following March.

RD executives were able to get Every Day into retail stores that in the past either didn't carry magazines at all or only carried niche titles. Every Day was the first magazine to grace Bed Bath & Beyond; Lowe's and craft store Michaels also broke new ground carrying the title.

Advertisers that bought into the launch issue enjoyed a 92% circulation bonus over rate base, and they've stuck around. Every Day With Rachael Ray has retained every one of its launch advertisers, Ms. Guilfoyle says, adding that 40% of them didn't even know who Ms. Ray was when they first bought into the title.

For 2006, ad pages through September totaled 236.9, according to Publishers Information Bureau. Not surprisingly, consumer package-goods, food, wine and spirits advertisers crisscross the magazine. The November issue features Procter & Gamble Co.'s Folgers and strong buy-in from the retail and automotive categories.

Media buyers have been pleased with the results. "I've been impressed with the magazine's circulation growth," says George Janson, managing partner-director of print at Mediaedge:cia, New York. "Big question: Will advertising carry the same momentum? To date I haven't seen the surge in ad pages that we saw for other launches like Oprah."

Advertisers will have more to sponsor as RD redoubles its online efforts and starts expanding its event sponsorships including next month's anniversary party, sponsored by GMC, Ann Taylor Loft and V&S Group's Absolut.

Inside the magazine, sponsorship opportunities abound. While advertisers can't buy into its recipes, they can purchase units related to the recipes, including an Every Day Menu Planner that consumers take with them to the grocery store.

Launch of the Year
Every Day With Rachael Ray
Company: Reader's Digest Association
Guaranteed circ: Bumped up from 350,000 to 750,000. Next: 1.3 million
Why it won: There's more to it than infectious enthusiam.
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