By Published on .

Eight months after taking control, the new owners of Petersen Publishing Co. are trying to wake up the company's sleepy image on Madison Avenue.

Petersen this week begins a road show to present its revamped corporate sales operation. At the same time, it is investing in redesigns of core titles Sport and 'Teen, and exploring the acquisition of The New York Times Co.'s sports and leisure glossies.

The more aggressive positioning comes as the publisher of more than 80 special-interest titles prepares for an initial public offering later this year. Petersen is already beginning to act like a public company, releasing an earnings statement for last year's fourth quarter that showed revenue of $53.3 million, up 5% from the same period in 1995.


Even Peter-sen Chairman-CEO Claeys Bahrenburg-criticized during his tenure as president of Hearst Magazines for not meeting often enough with advertisers-is taking a higher-profile role.

Mr. Bahrenburg, Petersen President Neal Vitale and Exec VP-Marketing and Sales James Guthrie this week will unveil the new corporate "Petersen Power Pack" at meetings in New York and Los Angeles with ad agencies and advertisers. Their presentation stresses the involvement of top management with the ad community.

"I want to put a face on this company, to let advertisers know we are accessible and fun, not distant," Mr. Guthrie said.


A cornerstone of the Power Pack offering is a corporate database developed after the acquisition. Petersen has organized its titles into what it calls "manageable clusters"-consisting of a reach group, an upscale group, an active sports participants group and an outdoor group

-but advertisers will be able to create customized packages using demographic or psychographic information.

The main goal is to lure new advertisers to some of Petersen's narrower titles, like Skin Diver and Hot Rod.

"Non-endemic advertising makes up less than 10% of Petersen's business, and we see it as a huge area of growth for us," said Mr. Vitale.

Steven Greenberger, VP-director of print media, Grey Advertising, New York, said that in the past Petersen wasn't good at creating corporate packages.

"It was a lot of individual selling," he said. "Corporate sales resulted more from agencies probing individual titles about possibilities. The agency would have to ask if it was possible to structure something."

With its repositioning of monthly Sport, Petersen is trying to separate the title from the coming battle between Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN Magazine, slated for every-other-weekly publication this fall, and Time Warner weekly Sports Illustrated. A new look will be unveiled with the October issue, said Polly Perkins, recently named president of Sport.

Petersen also licensed the name "Sports Traveler" from Ms. Perkins, who briefly published a magazine with that name. Petersen wants to publish its first issue of the women's sports title early next year.


The redesign of 'Teen appears with the August issue and includes extended fashion/beauty coverage and a more contemporary look. New advertisers that will appear in the issue include Clairol, J. Crew, Vidal Sassoon and JanSport.

Petersen is investing in distribution to boost newsstand sales, which now average 380,000, to as high as 650,000. The rate base is also expected to increase a whopping 50% to 1.8 million next year, said Amy Wilkins, president of the Petersen Youth Group.

In another move, Petersen is creating a licensing group that will be led by former Marvel Characters Exec VP Justin McCormack.

And while the company won't comment, it is known to be eyeing The New York Times sports group that includes Cruising World, Snow Country and Tennis.

Most Popular
In this article: