'Registered Rep' on top of its market

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Wasserstein & Co. and its investment partners announced last week that they have closed on their acquisition of Primedia's business information unit for $385 million. The unit, for the time being, will be known as PBI Media Holdings.

Over the past four years, Primedia's business publications-like so many other trade magazines-have struggled. But in a stable of about 70 publications, not every magazine faltered; some remained thoroughbreds. Perhaps no PBI Media Holdings publication has a stronger track record than Registered Rep, a magazine founded in 1976 to serve brokers at wire houses such as Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley.

Registered Rep was the first magazine in the category. It has retained a leadership role in the market, which it now shares with Source Media's On Wall Street and Adams Business Media's Research. "We've used them as our preferred trade publication for the last four years," Jim Schaberg, managing director-marketing at investment banking firm Incapital, said of Registered Rep. "We think it's the best read, best written and the most credible out there with financial advisers."

Incapital runs polybagged cover wraps with each issue of Registered Rep, providing ad pages that have contributed to the publication's market share growth this year against its traditional competitors. Registered Rep's market share increased to 44.1% in the first eight months of this year; its market share stood at 41.8% for all of 2004, according to IMS: The Auditor.

In comparison, IMS tabulated On Wall Street's market share at 29.6% in the first eight months of this year, down from 31.3% in 2004. Research's market share was 26.2% through August of this year, down from 27.1% last year.

Circulation growing

Registered Rep is also proving popular with readers. Its controlled circulation stood at 92,000 in 2001. By the end of last year it had reached 99,000. Currently, its circulation is 115,000, and Warren Bimblick, senior VP of PBI Media Holdings' financial services group, said he expects the circulation to reach 120,000 by the end of the year.

With a folio of 176 pages, Registered Rep's September issue was its biggest in five years. Bimblick said the magazine is reaping the benefits of a plan he put in place four years ago to strengthen the title. The plan was to take advantage of changes in how brokers are compensated. Instead of compensation being transaction-based, brokers are now compensated according to assets under management. This new arrangement has made brokers more powerful and made them less stock pushers than financial planners.

In 2001, Bimblick brought in Geoff Lewis, group editorial director of the financial services group, to run Registered Rep and other titles, including National Real Estate Investor, Retail Traffic and Trusts & Estates. Lewis came from BusinessWeek, where he was a senior editor. Before BusinessWeek, he worked for several years in b-to-b media.

"Coming back to b-to-b [magazines], I was looking at what I thought was a familiar problem with most b-to-b brands, which is not putting the effort in the writing and the packaging and the polish you see in the consumer business books," he said.

Early struggles

The alterations to Registered Rep did not start in the best of environments. In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the magazine, like so many others, struggled. "2002 was a disaster," Lewis said.

But the changes began paying off in 2003. And in 2004, ad pages increased 13% over 2003, according to IMS.

Bimblick credited much of Registered Rep's success to the consultative selling approach taken by the magazine's staff. "We've formed what you might say is a consulting business off the back of the magazine, which has a highly engaged audience," he said.

A key attraction of Registered Rep is the research it provides to prospective advertisers. Using the 85,000 e-mail addresses it has accumulated from its circulation base, Registered Rep generates custom research projects for companies looking to learn more about the mindset of brokers.

David Longfritz, senior VP-CMO of John Hancock Financial Services, said he was impressed by Registered Rep's research offerings and the magazine's sales approach. "Registered Rep has gone the value-added route, and they've done that better than the other monthlies," he said.

While Registered Rep has made some gains in market share in 2005, the competition isn't sitting still. Research confirmed it is on the block, and that Highline Media, run by former Thomson Media executive Andrew Goodenough, is looking at the publication, according to Robert Tyndall, Research's publisher.

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