From time to time, staffers at Franklin, Tenn.-based take a few hours off to ride bumper cars or hold a watermelon-dropping contest (cleanest break wins). If that sounds like rinky-dink small town America stuff to you, it's time to wise up to the power of so-called C and D markets and the weekly good-news magazine that serves them.
Distributed via community papers, gives readers the chance to check in with neighbors. Instead of celebs, there's the woman who, 20 years after she sold the 1964 Mustang her father had given her, found the car and restored it. "If you look at our covers, they're the people you run into at the market,' " says VP-Executive Editor Peter Fossel.
While much of the editorial is shared across American Profile's five regional editions, other sections often are as local as local can get. "[Readers] call us up and say, `Can we put our yard sale in the Happenings column?' and we say, `Yes, we can do that.' That's the key to me," Mr. Fossel says.
The title launched in April 2000 with a circulation of 1.1 million distributed through nearly 500 newspapers. Today it has a circulation of 4.2 million through 770 papers, and, according to Dan Hammond, publisher-CEO at parent Publishing Group of America, will end 2002 with a circulation of 4.5 million.
"The whole key to our success is this distribution strategy," Mr. Hammond says. "The community newspaper has no competition and 80% penetration."
The goal for is to reach 15 million homes as early as 2006 but definitely by 2008. Ad pages this year totaled 332.64 through September, up 8.35% over the same period a year ago, according to Publishers Information Bureau.
The title is on the radar of Brian Wheelis, associate media director at Omnicom Group's GSD&M, Austin, Texas. "It's the way to reach Wal-Mart shoppers. It's the way to make a very big company feel small town."
In 1998, yoga practitioner John Abbott started working on one of the most difficult poses he had encountered. The Future-Facing Publisher pose made the near-impossible Eight-Angle look simple.
That was the year Mr. Abbott acquired the ebbing Yoga Journal from the California Yoga Teachers Association. Mr. Abbott's goal was to regain the attention of the yoga community and then embrace a lifestyle approach, not limiting the magazine to yoga purists.
He hired a new editor in chief and staffed up the moribund circulation and advertising departments. And he had to find some way to keep the company from tipping over into bankruptcy-at the first payroll, there was just $3,000 in the company account.
"Our greatest challenge was to get the editorial right," Mr. Abbott says. He tapped Kathryn Arnold, a longtime yoga practitioner and editorial director of Boulder, Colo.-based New Hope Natural Media.
The plan was to refocus Yoga Journal as a lifestyle magazine for yoga enthusiasts, and the stars aligned. "A lot of things came together," Ms. Arnold says. "The medical community became more interested in yoga, we reached this critical mass of people in our country feeling stressed, and a lot of celebrities started speaking out " about yoga.
For the six months ended June 30, Yoga Journal's total paid circulation was 280,910, up 24.7% from the same period in 2001, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations; subscriptions were up 29.9% to 174,167 and single-copy sales climbed 17.1% to 106,743. The title's rate base will rise 10.3% to 300,000 as of January. It is the top-selling health and fitness title at Barnes & Noble nationwide, with a sell-through rate of 80%.
For 2002, ad pages are up about 42% over 2001 and the rate per page is up 26%, according to Mr. Abbott. About 30% of ad revenue comes from national advertisers-the goal is 50%.
Two of the title's newest advertisers are Dole Food Co.'s Dole Fruit Bowls and the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Many advertisers, including Tazo tea, buy into Yoga Journal's lifestyle approach and set up in-store events or sponsor the magazine's conferences.
"They are the perfect demographic for us," says Steven Smith, founder of Tazo. Tazo products such as Refresh and Awake "could be plucked right from stories about how yoga is important in people's lives."