Five Questions for the New Domino Magazine

Q&A With Domino Media Group Chief Revenue Officer Beth Brenner

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Domino returns as a website and quarterly print magazine.
Domino returns as a website and quarterly print magazine.

Domino magazine, the shelter title that Conde Nast shuttered in 2009 during the economic recession, returned this week with a new print magazine and website.

The magazine and site may look like the cheerful Domino its fans will remember, but the ownership and revenue model are quite different than the title's first go-round.

The new venture is run by the wholly owned Domino Media Group, which keeps an office of 16 people several blocks from Conde Nast's Manhattan headquarters. Conde is among three investors with stakes in the new company. The remaining two are Domino Media Group founders -- Cliff Sirlin, Andy Appelbaum and Aaron Wallace -- and private investors.

Domino is a website first and foremost, but one accompanied by a quarterly print magazine sold only at newsstands, which have been sent 200,000 copies, and through the Domino site.

E-commerce will be the main revenue driver. Readers can buy products featured in the stories directly from the Domino site. Advertising in print and online will also play a part, according to Beth Brenner, chief revenue officer of Domino Media Group and the original publisher of Domino.

Michelle Adams is editor of the new Domino. She worked at the magazine from 2006 to 2007 before going on to introduce the digital shelter title Lonny.

"Domino was a brand I gave birth to and nurtured for four years," said Ms. Brenner, who left her publisher role at Traditional Home for the new Domino. "Working in a true startup environment with the current team is a dream to me. It feels so right."

Ad Age spoke with Ms. Brenner about the new venture, including its hope for native advertising and why it's not a part of Conde Nast. The conversation has been condensed and lightly edited.

Advertising Age: Why isn't Domino redux a part of Conde Nast?

Beth Brenner: First of all, we had to build our own content management system. There was nothing out there that could be borrowed or bought and that took a very specific technology team. I think that these things inside large companies take months if not years to approve and build. There was the realization, I think, that this wasn't something that was going to happen inside the infrastructure of the company. And Conde Nast's own cost structure, if that were applied to it, would take a lot more time to be profitable. That was one of the difficulties the first time. As our founders like to say, if Conde Nast is a big cruise ship, we're a speedboat. We can move quickly and be nimble. We have a few people doing a lot of jobs, so the cost structure is much, much less.

Ad Age: How do you ensure that doesn't become little more than a catalogue with better editorial?

Beth Brenner
Beth Brenner

Ms. Brenner: The formula really is editorial first. Content leads commerce, which is very different from the other models that get the merchandise first and build editorial around it in order to sell it. We create the stories first and then we tell you how to get them. Content leading commerce is a very important distinction.

Ad Age: How important is the actual print magazine to this model?

Ms. Brenner: It's vitally important. It is the branding tool, the mechanism by which we're able to bring the Domino brand back. The outpouring on social media saying thank goodness there's a print magazine has been unbelievable. The touch/feel quality, particularly with home decorating, is so important.

Ad Age: How big a role will advertising play for the magazine and website?

Ms. Brenner: I've been deluged with requests. In the next issue, we're looking to do about a 75/25 edit-to-ad ratio. We don't want to overpower people. If the demand is higher there will be more pages.

We didn't build any traditional banner advertising onto the site and that was by design. The conversations we're having are all around native advertising programs. At this time we have no plans to build banner advertising. Everything is native. Upon request we're crafting sponsored content opportunities and integrated programs across both the magazine and the website.

Ad Age: Did any of your former colleagues throw you a party to welcome you back?

Ms. Brenner: No, but a lot of my old friends have asked me to lunch. And I do have access to the building. I can go in there without having to sign in.

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