'Sync' Is Aimed at Male Gadget Geeks

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Ziff Davis Media will launch the gadget-lifestyle consumer title Sync with a June-July 2004 issue. It will be its first non-gaming consumer launch since 2000.

Sync targets digitally obsessed young men looking for camera phones, high-definition TVs and iPods. But Ziff Davis' new title hits the market in rough synchronicity with a clutch of like-minded newcomers. Primedia is launching Connected Living -- a more digitized take on its Audio Video Interiors, which it replaces -- as well as electronics shopping title Best. And longtime rival IDG is mulling a Sync-esque title as well.

Twin shopping titles from the Advance empire, Conde Nast Publications' Cargo and Fairchild Publications' Vitals, will cover digital gadgets, and men's titles as diverse as Hearst Magazines' Esquire, Conde Nast's Wired and Dennis Publishing's Stuff feature product pages of shiny electronics.

Ziff stabilizing
Sync launches as Ziff Davis shows signs of stabilization. For the first nine months of 2003, Ziff Davis posted earnings before interest, taxes depreciation and amortization of $17.2 million on revenue of $134.4 million. And financial filings no longer contain ominous phrases expressing "substantial doubt about [Ziff's] ability to continue as a going concern," as they did before the company restructured its debt in 2002. When Willis Stein & Partners purchased Ziff in 1999, it recorded an EBITDA of $111 million on revenue of $454.2 million. (Ziff has since shuttered several titles, including travel title Expedia and Yahoo! Internet Life.)

Willis Stein bought the company for $780 million and added over $100 million to keep it afloat when the market turned. An executive familiar with the deal markets reckoned a sale today might net Willis Stein half its original purchase price.

Color page rate: $20,000
Sync will launch with a rate base of 200,000. A one-time full color ad page rate is $20,000, but no advertisers have yet signed up. Four issues will be published in this year, with plans to go to six times a year in 2005 and 10 times a year in '06. Ziff Chairman-CEO Bob Callahan declined to disclose how much Ziff would invest in the title, which will have a staff of about 20.

One print buyer expressed cautious enthusiasm. "I personally believe there are enough guys that will find a stand-alone [title] on all the techy stuff interesting," said Steve Greenberger, senior vice president and director of print at Zenith Media, New York. A self-described tech head, he's yet to buy space in Sync. But George Janson, director of print for WPP Group's Mediaedge:cia, New York, warned that consumer electronics "is a highly volatile category, as major players face reduced margins and try to find the optimal spending mix."

The title will be paired with a conference Ziff Davis is launching, Digital Life, on Oct. 13 in New York.

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