Surviving The Recesssion: WWHD? (What Would Hearst Do?)

There’s a great article in the NY Times – about Hearst Magazine’s contrarian strategiesand how they seem to be paying off during the economic downturn. Some highlights taken from the article:

Larger Sizes:
With standardized practices in production and logistics, many magazines have trended toward a small size – a little bit shorter and narrower than 8.5˝ x 11˝. Hearst has increased the size of some its publications up to an inch taller and wider than the norm.

Experts say that the larger size gives pictures an added flair that can appeal to readers and advertisers, and that Hearst has the market clout to gain cooperation from retailers. -via NY Times.

Price Increases:
While most publishers are hesitant to test a new price point – fearing they’ll alienate loyal readers and sales will drop – it does seem like one of the only features of a publication that publishers can control and which directly affects profits.

In recent years due to heavy discounts, the average price paid for most major magazines has declined. Hearst increased the newsstand price of most of its magazines (some by more than 25 percent). They did not significantly change subscription pricing. Sales “barely budged” despite the increases.

There was some trepidation about price increases, especially once the recession took hold, but it turned out consumers who are committed to certain magazines needed little persuading, said Michael Clinton, executive vice president of Hearst Magazines. – via NY Times.

Online Strategy:
Hearst keeps much of its printed material offline and tries to drive readers to subscribe or go to the newsstand for content. Last year it reported 25 percent of new subscriptions came in online and project those numbers could reach 33 percent this year.

I want 1.6 million women to go to the newsstand every month to buy Cosmo, and they do, We don’t want that genie out of the bottle. I don’t have any interest in challenging that economic model.- Cathie Black, president of Hearst Magazines, via NY Times.

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