Land grab in luxe land as niche publishers race to stake claims

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When Jason Binn announced that his Niche Media, publisher of Gotham and Hamptons, would introduce yet another city-specific luxury magazine-in Atlantic City, tentatively called Boardwalk-it marked the latest land grab in the rush for position among local luxury publishers. Boardwalk will bring the Niche portfolio to seven, counting two planned September launches, Capitol File in Washington and Boston Common.

A competitor, Modern Luxury, started its fifth magazine, Houston, in March, with plans for D.C. in September, the relaunch of San Francisco in November and the introduction of The Atlantan next spring. And Absolute Publishing began sending Absolute magazine to rich New Yorkers this spring.

The prize is a slice of the 20 million U.S. homes with incomes above $100,000, according to a Boston Consulting Group estimate. But it is not clear which titles will dominate or whether advertisers can support them all.

"They are rushing to stake their claims first," said Jim Kastleman, president and group publisher at PaperCity, a local luxury publisher with magazines in San Francisco, Atlanta, Dallas and Houston.


Christopher O'Connor, senior VP-group account director at MPG, said some titles will sink. "I heard someone say once, `There may be a gap in the market, but is there a market in that particular gap?"'

Then there is the price that rich readers pay: zilch. "You say there is a circulation figure of 15,000," Mr. O'Connor said. "But because it is given out for free, are these people really interested in it?"

Niche Media and Modern Luxury deny any land rush. "When I hear about books in my marketplaces it's exciting," said Mr. Binn. "The more people you have screaming about the power of that marketplace, the more advertisers hear it."

Michael B. Kong, CEO-group publisher at Modern Luxury, said, `"Land rush' assumes you want to get there first. Being first to market gives you some advantage, but I really and truly am not focused on who's there now or how to get there first."

Mr. Binn said Niche Media revenue had grown 20% per year in each market for the last five years. Mr. Kong said revenue at his company, which is backed by Roy E. Disney's Shamrock Capital Growth Fund, has increased 81% so far this year.

The books' quoted ad rates for one-time full-page ads range from $5,500 to $16,500. They have drawn both national and local advertisers, from Nieman Marcus and NetJets to Houston's Zadok Jewelers and J.H. Todd Interior Design in Aspen, Colo. As the publishers expand, they want to sell more national ad buys across titles.

Even Mr. Kastleman does not plan to hold pat for long. "I'm in four markets," he said. "Trust me, in a year I'll be looking for another one."

And more competitors are steadily arriving. Sandow Media said last week that it is introducing a local luxury magazine called Luxe: The Colorado Home Redefined.

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