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I talked to Al Crolius, Senior Vice President of the Action Sports Group at Source Interlink Media, to find out more about the changes at Surfing and Surfer.
We ended up talking about the changes and much more, including some investments the titles will make next year to grow circulation and how revenue will turn out in 2009.
Al said he wanted one publisher over both titles for some time, especially since one advertising sales staff handles sales for both publications. As a surf media company with different platforms, it didn't make sense to have two magazine publishers competing against each other, he said.
However, with two strong publishers, both with close ties and in-depth knowledge of the industry, he could not ask one to go.
Then recently Rick Irons told Al he had an opportunity to become the global brand manager for Dragon, and it allowed Al to make the change organically.
The editorial staffs will remain completely independent, Al said.
I asked Al the question that many people ask who don't completely understand Surfing and Surfer. Will the magazines ever merge?
Al said absolutely not. Both are very profitable, he said, and appeal to different demographics. Surfing, with a paid circulation of approximately 93,000, appeals to a younger demographic that is also into music and other pursuits. Surfer, with a paid circulation of approximately 95,000, is more traditional and covers all aspects of the sport.
The magazines are the No. 1 and No. 2 surf titles in the market, Al said. The subscriber overlap is small and both make lots of money. Why combine them and allow a competitor to slide into that No. 2 spot?
"That would be the craziest business decision we ever made if we even considered it," he said.
I asked Al how 2009 will turn out for the magazines. He said 2009 revenue numbers will be lower than 2008 but not dramatically. In the spring, he had thought the year would turn out much worse then it did.
Al said he's seeing some positive signs in the economy and in the magazine business that gives him hope 2010 will be better.
In the meantime, Source Interlink is investing in Surfer and Surfing in 2010. It is dedicating extra money to grow paid circulation for both magazines, with the goal of reaching 100,000 for each title. The group plans to work with its advertising partners to identify potential subscribers from their enthusiast lists, send additional mailings to expired subscribers and increase the number of copies at newsstands in areas with strong surf markets, among other strategies.
The company may also improve the paper quality for each title.
Al said Source Interlink's bankruptcy is actually allowing the company to make more investment in the magazines. Because the company's debt was lowered during the bankruptcy process, it has more money to invest in the business.
"The (bankruptcy) reorganization turned out to be a good thing," he said.