Five Questions for Kent Brownridge

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Advertising Age: What are the biggest shifts in magazine publishing that you saw in the last 31 years?

Kent Brownridge: I can think of four big shifts.

1. There used to be a sacred concept known as "church and state." Today it exists less. I don't think this is bad. In many respects, church and state was a cumbersome concept. This is not to say that we should ever compromise our editorial integrity, but editors and businesspeople need to talk early, often and comprehensively.

2. The second big change is the collapse of the venerable rate card. When I started there were actually cards. They would fit in a No. 5 envelope, about three by eight inches. I don't think anyone even prints them any more. Rate administration is now a much more complicated science.

3. People don't stay in their jobs as long. ... There are people in the industry now who are thought to be senior salespeople who have done it for a total of three years.

4. Circulation strategies are totally different than they were when I came into the business, starting with the fact that most publishers today do not use direct mail to build or develop circulation. That sort of went the way of the horse buggy. ...

With all that's gone on, are the magazine industry's circulation practices now clean?

I hope so. I can tell you for sure three places that they are clean-Us Weekly, Rolling Stone and Men's Journal. I can guess at some other places where they're clean, like Time Warner, Conde Nast, Hearst and other big publishers.

Hopefully the new ABC rules have closed an airtight door on all of those wild and wooly practices like negative remits. But the history of infectious diseases is that just when you think you've wiped one out it springs up somewhere else.

Forecast the next few years in celebrities weeklies for us.

There will not be many more launches, if any. It's an overcrowded field right now and everyone that's in the arena or watching the arena can see and appreciate this fact. I don't think there are too many people who are hankering to jump in right now. As for shakeout, there may be another one or maybe two, but I don't know who.

Music labels know the next morning how many CDs sold the day before; when will magazines be able to do the same?

I think relatively soon. I've seen a proposal now from Rebecca McPheters of McPheters & Company, and her idea, while it's not exactly that, embodies some of this concept. This is an encouraging development. It's going to take a while to get in place and get advertising agencies to see it and understand it and use it. But once that happens, everything will fall in place rather quickly.

You have a horse farm in Virginia; will you now retreat quietly to the country?

It's way too boring. I love horses but I couldn't get up every morning and look at birds. I'm not going away. I'll be around.

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