Mega-Conference Idea Exchange:

Lifestyle magazines with personality draw readers, advertisers and revenue


During an Idea Exchange roundtable about best print ideas and magazine publishing at the Mega-Conference, the publisher of The Daily News in Galveston, Texas, shared tips and advice for producing a lifestyle magazine — and talked about why these magazines are so important to local markets.

Leonard Woolsey, who also is president of Southern Newspapers, said lifestyle magazines offer so much potential that it needs to be a conscious decision if your paper chooses not to publish one.  "If you don't get in the game," he said, "somebody else most likely will come in and take away six figures of revenue in a blink of an eye.  And, once they take it away from you, you're in second place ... and it gets really hard to catch up."

He drew a distinction between special sections printed on glossy paper and a lifestyle magazine.  "Just printing something on glossy paper, doesn't make it a magazine," he said. "It just means you printed something on gloss."

Instead, lifestyle magazines need to be a separate brand element within an organization.  There's the newspaper, he said, and then there is the magazine — with its own separate personality and identity.

Woolsey said the best magazines are aspirational with each story, photograph and ad inviting readers to be the best of themselves.  This allows you to leverage the magazine's personality with a different brand from the newspaper. "It takes on its own life," Woolsey said, with its own strengths.  In return, he said you'll find advertisers that may rarely or never be in your newspaper who will want to be in a properly positioned lifestyle magazine because they want to be part of that audience. "The fact that it's aspirational and upbeat and tells the stories of people that you never hear in your newspaper is something they will want to be part of."

Galveston's lifestyle magazine — Coast Monthly — "is stubborn proof that in a digital world print remains a powerful and attractive growth tool of newspaper companies," Woolsey says.

He told America's Newspapers: "When measured in brass tacks — does it make money and advance the company's mission of serving a market and funding local journalism — the magazine is as beautiful on the PL as when in the hands of the reader."

During the Idea Exchange roundtables, he said the magazine brings in about $80,000 a month, "which is a lot of money for a paper our size, and it's about to roll over into a million dollar property."

With a unique "sand paper" cover and high-end gloss pages inside, Coast Monthly is a primarily distributed to home-delivery subscribers.  Another 5,000 copies are distributed to local hotel rooms and short-term vacation rental homes.  In addition, about 1,500 copies are distributed to targeted island businesses, like coffee shops, dentist offices and service centers at local car dealers. It also can be read on the website of The Daily News. View the April edition here. On Coast Sunday, a banner runs across the top of the printed newspaper noting that Coast Monthly is exclusive to home-delivery subscribers.  "If you buy the paper in a store," he said, "you're not getting the magazine. You have to be a home-delivery subscriber to get the magazine."

In addition to being aspirational, Woolsey told Mega-Conference attendees that it's important that the magazine have its own identify, including a name that will be easily recognizable in the community.  He said his staff knew that Coast Monthly had really connected with the community when people started referring to the last weekend of the month as Coast Sunday, when the magazine would be published.

He encouraged attendees not to feel like they have to put the full burden of producing the magazine on the shoulders of their existing staff.  While the assistant managing editor of the 15,000-circulation Daily News is the editor of the magazine, just one or two stories in each issue are produced by the newspaper's reporters.  The paper has a stable of stringers who write for the magazine.  "You'd be surprised at how many people in your community would like to write for you or shoot art for a glossy, beautiful magazine," he said.  And photography has to kill, he said.

And, it's important that the magazine be beautiful.  You are selling an experience, he said,  and that becomes the narrative when you are selling ad space in the magazine. 

While the same newspaper sales team sells advertising for both the newspaper and the magazine, separate sales meetings are held for each.  And, the default proposal taken to local businesses by the sales representatives is a full-page ad, 12 times a year.  Woolsey said over 90 percent of the revenue in the magazine is on a 12-month contract, which makes a big difference in the success of the magazine. "Have the courage to take pride in the product you've invested in and go out there and fight for it," he said. 

"In a world of digital this and digital that, Coast Monthly is a reminder that print — when properly executed — is a powerful and effective medium," Woolsey said.