Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Magazine growth can be summed up using a four letter word: hope.

Al Zikovitz, publisher of Cottage Life and Quarto Communications (which includes TV, radio and web properties), gave a luncheon keynote at the Alberta Magazines Conference on Growth in a Tough Climate: Surviving and Prospering in Turbulent Times.

Cottage Life's success story is impressive, but Zikovitz emphasized that this success can be replicated here in Alberta, or anywhere. In regards to the economy, Zikovitz says, "I believe we got ourselves into this because we have relied too much on advertising for our success. We've been chasing circulation for our advertisers, instead of our customers."

Zikovitz started Cottage Life after he got fired from a job (good news for those considering a career change). Having a cottage and many questions that came along with it, he saw the need for a publication that could provide answers.

Key findings:
- Direct Mail. The magazine itself is the best direct mail piece a magazine can have. It's the cheapest and the most effective.
- Create Value. Cottage Life was created on the premise that it would be a magazine that cottagers could not live without (as opposed to a pretty coffee table book). Any magazine's job is to be experts in their field, and know more about their readership's wants and needs than anybody else does--and then communicate that to people, through various media.
- Credibility. "We couldn't have extended our brand without credibility," says Zikovitz, who expanded Cottage Life, first from merchandising (puzzles, cribbage boards, etc.); to radio (Cottage Life radio, a radio program on 165 stations in Canada); TV (Cottage Life TV, programs were produced in-house and sold to networks); exhibitions (trade show has become the largest three day consumer show in Canada).
- Web.Zikovitz expanded Cottage Life's offerings during a down market in '91 - '93 when unemployment was 12%. He compares this to today's unemployment rate of 7.7%. Clearly, much can be done in times like these.

Zikovitz ended by saying this: "We are more than publishers--we are market specialists. And so are you."

-Anh Chu