Cooking Light Taps Subscription Commerce

Publisher Puts Products Into Readers' Hands With CraveBox

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Subscribers of glossy magazines may soon find that issues are accompanied not just by two-dimensional ads, but by physical samples of those products delivered to subscribers' doors.

Publishers are dabbling in subscription commerce, in which users pay an annual subscription and receive boxes filled with products and samples at regular intervals. It's one of the hottest trends in shopping -- and there's one for virtually every interest: Birchbox delivers beauty products, BarkBox purveys pet treats and toys and Blush Box offers up erotic paraphernalia.

Another player, CraveBox, is targeting publishers with a white-label platform that helps them offer discovery boxes and put advertisers' products into the hands of subscribers.

Subscribers can buy magazine-branded CraveBoxes for about $10 a month. The boxes will include a selection of products from a publisher's key advertisers (think a stopwatch for a health title, mascara for a beauty title) and be marketed both to CraveBox subscribers and to the magazine's audience. Kitty Kolding, CraveBox's CEO, said CraveBox splits the revenue with the publisher, though the split may vary from publisher to publisher.

Cooking Light Cravebox includes Dole fruit and McCormick spices.
Cooking Light Cravebox includes Dole fruit and McCormick spices.

Time Inc.'s Cooking Light this month will be among the first to issue one. "We're always looking for new ways, especially in this climate, to curate the Cooking Light experience and deliver that experience to consumers," said Diane Oshin, the title's group publisher.

The first box will include between four and seven items under the theme of "family friendly" products. Among the brands included: Green Mountain Coffee, McCormick Spices and a Dole fruit product. It's being co-promoted through CraveBox and Cooking Light and will be backed by a digital push.

CraveBox says the cost of entry for marketers is likely cheaper than buying a full-page ad and it offers category exclusivity. Cooking Light's Ms. Oshin isn't worried about CraveBox cannibalizing print advertising. "It's apples and oranges," she said, adding that the new form of inventory has opened conversations with advertisers.

"The sponsorship reception has been tremendous. We are likely to do several more in the next 12 months," she said, noting that seasonal or holiday-themed boxes could come later.

Depending on how the Cooking Light mailing performs, other titles in Time Inc.'s lifestyle group, such as Southern Living, Real Simple and Sunset, may give it a try.

In the meantime, CraveBox is courting retailers, having recently created a box with David's Bridal stores.

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