Artsy Niche Title Shifts Gears Under New Owner

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Although the new owner of Tokion, a downtown-culture tastemakers’ magazine, did not say so outright, he clearly has a dream: to transform its niche audience into a macro-niche.
The Downtown Media Group, which has acquired the magazine, intends to broaden Tokion's appeal.

Broader appeal
“We’ll be trying to make the magazine less niche-oriented and try to broaden its appeal to reach a broader audience,” said Larry Rosenblum, whose Downtown Media Group bought Tokion from its founder in late October. (Terms were not disclosed.)

Before fans can howl, Mr. Rosenblum added, magazines can become more accessible and readable without losing their esoteric qualities. “Broadening an audience does not necessarily mean becoming ‘commercial’ or displacing or replacing your foundation.”

89,000 readers
His intention is to build on the existing foundation. At the moment, the 9-year-old magazine claims just 89,000 readers. But his plans include gaining membership in either the Audit Bureau of Circulations or BPA Worldwide, expanding the magazine’s line of branded streetwear, eventually increasing Tokion’s frequency to perhaps 10 times a year from six and rebuilding its Web site.

Moreover, he said Downtown Media is in acquisition talks with three other titles with an eye to becoming a “Conde Nast for a young urban marketplace.”

Quirky publication
“It’s a pretty quirky publication in the first place, only of interest to a certain artsy type,” said Christopher O’Connor, senior VP-group account director, MPG, who sometimes tries to reach trendsetters by placing ads in small, hip magazines. “If you enlarge the circulation, it’s going to change the scope and possibly the content of the magazine.”

Certain advertisers, however, appreciate the laserlike focus that a niche readership offers. The current issue of Tokion, its 50th, includes ads for big names such as Adidas, Mountain Dew and Scion as well as lesser-known players like Brahma beer and Kidrobot, a creator and retailer of hipster gear like limited-edition art toys, action figures, posters and clothes.

Reaching influencers
“Circulation is always an issue,” said David Hershkovits, co-editor and co-publisher at Paper magazine, an ahead-of-the-curve title that has been catering to the downtown audience since 1984. “We tell advertisers that if you want 2 million people you can go to Time magazine, but if you want to reach our 90,000 influencers, you pretty much have to come to us."

Growth is possible, however, as Paper has discovered. “We started as a folded-up handout that sold for 50 cents. But at some point the magazine evolved and then we had perfect binding, and then we went to color,” Mr. Hershkovits said. “We talked about things like alienating our readers when we decided to switch formats. We decided that it’s really the content that’s holding people, not the shape or any other gimmick that helps you stand out.”

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