Sunday, April 22, 2007

Buyers: Conde Nast's Portfolio nails it

Buyers: Conde Nast's Portfolio nails it
New upscale magazine is smartly positioned to compete
By Diego Vasquez cle_11515.asp

This may be the worst time ever to launch a magazine, and it may be true, as many believe, that Conde Nast Portfolio will turn out to be the last big launch. It's certainly no sure bet the new business publication will succeed, even with Conde Nast's great muscle behind it.

But if Portfolio does tank, it will not be for lack of commitment. While a lot of media buyers and planners have yet to see the premiere issue, which came out on Monday, those who have credit the publishing company with managing one of the smartest launches in memory.

They believe Portfolio is well-positioned to compete among the existing pure business titles but still stand apart as a unique hybrid, focused on the nexus where business, lifestyle and luxury meet up, as a Vanity Fair of sorts for the business reader.

And they credit Conde Nast for the way its sales staff sold Portfolio into media departments, patiently responding to criticism and doubts over an idea that seemed risky to so many, at a time when mainstream business titles have been struggling against the flight of readers and advertisers to the internet.

"I think it's been one of the most well-launched magazines as far as how they engaged the ad community," Heather Kruse, group media director at Fallon in Minneapolis, tells Media Life.

"A year and a half ago everybody's red flags went up, but they brought us along in their process," she says. "At each step they took feedback, so you've got to believe they incorporated that to make tweaks." The effect was to corral media buyers behind the publication. Kruse says she's placed a client in the second issue, due out in September. "It fills a niche."

"It was a very meticulous launch," says Alan Jurmain, group media director at Avrett Free Ginsberg in New York, with top talent in editor Joanne Lipman and David Carey, its publisher. "The web site is pretty impressive. They were aggressive with advertisers, wanting multiple-page commitments for the premiere issue."

"I think it's going to be successful. I think a publication like this has a definitive place in the list of considerations of business," says Steve Greenberger, executive vice president and media director at SLG Advertising in Greenwich, Conn.

"Portfolio has taken on an angle that talks about how to succeed in business and has done it in such a way that will work very well within the Conde Nast roster of magazines," he says.

"All the stars are in the right position. As they say on the agency side, it's up to them to screw it up."

Says Martin Walker of Walker Communications, the magazine consultant: "It's an impressive-looking launch with lots of advertising. They were able to capitalize on fashion connections they have with GQ and other magazines to bring a lot of those advertisers. But they also seem to have a significant amount of financial advertising, which is not traditional in the Conde Nast books."

Walker is particularly impressed by the balance between the print Portfolio and the companion web site, with the site offering business news and the magazine featuring articles of such length that they all but demand to be read on the printed page.

The effect, he says, is to protect the magazine from the ravages of the internet. Says Walker: "Most Conde Nast magazines are like that, except in most cases it's fashion or beauty, where you need the printed page to show the product."

A big issue facing Portfolio is just how competitive it will be against the traditional pure-business titles when it comes to ad pages, and whether it will hurt or help the business category.

Bob Safian, editor of Fast Company, thinks it will help. He dismisses the idea that the category is as troubled as the declining ad page numbers might suggest.

"It's a choice demo that people want to reach," says Safian. "The challenge is making the magazines fun and exciting. The more competition there is, the fresher the magazines, and that helps the category."

No comments: