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“Move Forward” with Fitness Magazine and its New Tagline. Mr. Magazine’s™ Interview with Fitness Publisher, Eric Schwarzkopf, as the Magazine Rejoices in Its Print Persona and Propels Forward On Its Multi-Platform Purpose…

February 25, 2014

“And you know magazines are not going away. The one thing that I think is so special about print is it’s the one medium where consumers say that the advertising is part of the overall experience.”
…Eric Schwarzkopf

Fitness March 2014 Cover (2) A call to action is the description Fitness Magazine’s publisher, Eric Schwarzkopf, gives the magazine’s new tagline: “Move Forward.” A unique twist to magazine renovations; promoting a tagline change is something not usually done. But Fitness Magazine (a Meredith publication) has always been a motivator and an inspiration to women since its inception in 1992. And retiring the ‘Mind, Body, Spirit’ tagline shows a print product determined to “move forward” and continue that energetic impetus.

A man who believes in print, but concurs that every platform must be a viable option for the customer, Schwarzkopf knows the value of the brand. Changing the tagline to a more forceful, dominant command brings this stellar debut its own special connotation: to “Move Forward” to a more healthier and vibrant you. Something he thinks each of the magazine’s readers can and will appreciate.

So sit back and enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with the publisher of Fitness Magazine, Eric Schwarzkopf.

But first the sound-bites:

Eric Schwarzkopf_8.12_lores (2)On digital brands venturing into print…
I think it’s important to be everywhere that the consumer is and if digital brands are realizing that print is a smart and viable place that people are not abandoning then it’s wise for them to be everywhere with their message.

On Fitness Magazine changing its tagline…
“Mind, Body, Spirit” had been our tagline for 20 years and it really embraced our philosophy and the way women were looking at the world and what they wanted from their lives, and that probably still applies to this day. We just felt that after two decades it was probably time to modernize that and just give it a fresh new voice.

On an explanation of the new tagline “Move Forward”…
We feel like it’s another way to differentiate our brand from what can be a crowded category. I hope it resonates with readers, I think it will because it sort of invokes that Newton’s Law of Motion — objects and things in motion stay in motion.

fitness logo_blue_move_forward (2)

On why the tagline isn’t on the cover…
It’s on the spine and inside the magazine. So we put it in those two places and whether it finds its way to the front cover, we’ll see.

On the future of Fitness magazine…
Still the publisher of a brand that is primarily driven by print but one that has other assets that are catching up and certainly online advertising will continue to grow so that will be a bigger percentage of our overall revenue. And we do very well with events and experiential marketing. But I believe print three years from now will still be by far our largest piece of the pie but the others will certainly grow.

On the biggest stumbling block for magazines and magazine media today…

I would have to say it is less dollars available in print, so in past years advertisers might buy three or four titles within our category. Nowadays, they’re only buying one, or magazines within a category. They’re not going as deep with their buys so that creates quite a competitive battle.

On how Fitness Magazine can get past that stumbling block…
Well, we need to continue to prove to advertisers that our readers are more engaged and more responsive to these ad messages than those in our competitors.

On something new Fitness Magazine is doing…

We have about two million e-newsletters that we send out on a monthly basis and one of the more successful ones is called the Daily Fit Tip and there are over 525,000 women who have opted in to receive that Daily Fit Tip email every day.

And now the lightly edited Mr. Magazine™ conversation with the publisher of Fitness magazine, Eric Schwarzkopf.

—–

Samir Husni: First what I’d like to know from you, if you’re the doctor that was going to keep your hand on the pulse of Fitness, how would you describe it? What’s the pulse of Fitness magazine today and fitness in general?

Eric Schwarzkopf: The pulse of the magazine today is thriving and ever evolving. As the media landscape changes and consumers’ media consumptions change, we have to stay in lock and step with that and try to move as fast as we can. As ad dollars sort of flow in different directions and have this slight trickle away from print, we need to make sure we can be there with our editorial voice and our advertiser’s messages at every touch point in a woman’s life.

SH: You mentioned the ad dollars trickling away from print; why do you think then we are seeing a lot of digital entities — like Pitchfork or Porter or a lot of these digital websites — migrating into print and launching print magazines in addition to their digital?

ES: And allrecipes.com right?

SH: Is it time for us to rethink the business model of print or the entire business model for the magazine media?

ES: I think it’s important to be everywhere that the consumer is and if digital brands are realizing that print is a smart and viable place that people are not abandoning then it’s wise for them to be everywhere with their message. What we’re trying to do, they’re just doing it in reverse.

SH: Tell me a little bit about this move with Fitness from “Mind, Body, Spirit” to “Move Forward,” this new tagline. What was the thinking behind it, besides the commitment to move the advertising partners’ business forward by connecting their brands — what you mentioned in the press release — but more in reality, how do you identify…

ES: “Mind, Body, Spirit” had been our tagline for 20 years and it really embraced our philosophy and the way women were looking at the world and what they wanted from their lives, and that probably still applies to this day. We just felt that after two decades it was probably time to modernize that and just give it a fresh new voice.

So we worked with an outside company and we had top editors and our top folks on the marketing and advertising side and we reviewed many different taglines and this was the one we honed in on. It was one of those that we said, “That’s it, there it is.” That’s what you want out of these brainstorming sessions — the one idea that everybody says, “There it is, that captures the essence of it.”

It really does have this double entendre to it about the physical and the fitness piece of moving forward and building a healthy mind and a healthy body. But also the figurative side to it, moving forward in your life. Whether that’s from a healthy attitudinal spirit, it can apply to your professional life. It just sort of moves people toward goals that drive this sense of confidence. We felt like that was a good one.

SH: In all honesty, I can’t remember a day in recent memory where a magazine focused so much on the tagline. It’s a first that a magazine is sending press releases and doing all sorts of publicity based on a tagline. How important is the tagline to the industry, to the advertisers or are you combining the tagline with something else? Is there something bigger than just changing a tagline?

ES: We feel like it’s another way to differentiate our brand from what can be a crowded category. I hope it resonates with readers, I think it will because it sort of invokes that Newton’s Law of Motion — objects and things in motion stay in motion.

In such a busy world, it’s nice to think of it in multiple ways: One in your physicality but two in your sort of spirituality, if you will. I think we’re just trying to create one more point of differentiation for us. It can be for people at any level, at any age. You don’t have to be an expert exerciser or triathlete. You can be an absolute beginner. It’s celebrating women’s power to sort of take control of their lives and be confident.

SH: You mentioned that there’s a lot of competition now. Kristine Welker, the publisher of Dr. Oz The Good Life, talks a lot about wellness. Is fitness wellness?

ES: Absolutely. Oh gosh, yes. In fact, I think the tagline helps us because I think there is a propensity for people to see our name and think of it in a very vertical manner. And it is definitely not the way our website or our magazine or our social media is really conveyed. Certainly exercise is a part of our story but we deliver the most health and wellness edit of any magazine in our category, in fact, even more than Health Magazine.

So yes, wellness is enormous and it touches so many facets of our lives — the food we eat, the way we stay active, our mental health. The wellness piece is very important.

SH: I don’t know if that’s a split test, but the copy that I found on the newsstands of fitness did not have the tagline on the cover. Is that something that was done on purpose?

ES: It’s on the spine and inside the magazine. So we put it in those two places and whether it finds its way to the front cover, we’ll see. That’s certainly up to Betty Wong, our editor in chief. At this juncture we all feel comfortable with it starting out on the spine and the masthead.

SH: Can you tell me a little bit about the market in general? I mean you’ve been dealing with print and you are now “moving forward” to digital and other platforms. With events, with everything else that Fitness magazine is sponsoring; what does the future look like for you two or three years from now? Will you still be a publisher of a brand strictly based in print or will you be publisher of a brand that’s digital that has a print entity. Where do you see yourself three years from now?

ES: Still the publisher of a brand that is primarily driven by print but one that has other assets that are catching up and certainly online advertising will continue to grow so that will be a bigger percentage of our overall revenue. And we do very well with events and experiential marketing.

We have a lot of web series that we are out there producing for people and we have custom videos that we’re doing more and more of, so I think we’ll continue to see our growth in those areas. Social media continues to be very big as well and that’s a revenue builder as well. So I think the ad revenue pie will grow in the other areas. But I believe print three years from now will still be by far our largest piece of the pie but the others will certainly grow.

SH: Are you facing any, not necessarily challenges, but any demands from advertisers to use native advertising on the pages of the magazine?

ES: Yes, that’s been happening for a number of years. We feel that print was the originator for native advertising. We started that. We’ve been talking about brands in our articles since the beginning of time so I believe we’ve been doing that, not generating ad revenue — there’s the church and state line. But yes, that pressure and those requests continue from clients and agencies. So we’re trying to navigate our way through that and maintain the respect for editors as well as not creating confusion for the consumer.

SH: What’s the most difficult hurdle that you see facing magazines and magazine media in the near future? What’s your biggest stumbling block today?

ES: I would have to say it is less dollars available in print, so in past years advertisers might buy three or four titles within our category. Nowadays, they’re only buying one, or magazines within a category. They’re not going as deep with their buys so that creates quite a competitive battle.

SH: Then you can predict my next question…How are you going to jump over that hurdle?

ES: Well, we need to continue to prove to advertisers that our readers are more engaged and more responsive to these ad messages than those in our competitors. And we have some very solid research that does prove that, whether it’s Starch from MRI and we consistently score exceptionally high on that, quite often No. 1 versus our competitive set for buying a product, telling a friend about a product, tearing out an ad, visiting a website. That is compelling stuff.

And then of course as far as Meredith is concerned, we’re the only company that has partnered with Nielsen Homescan to prove ROI with a money back guarantee. The Meredith sales guarantee has been a wonderful tool to have in our arsenal.

SH: Are you using that in Fitness also now?

ES: Oh, yes. I think 27 brands have taken advantage of the Meredith sales guarantee and the Nielsen Homescan data and every single brand has seen a lift in sales and Fitness has been involved with I would say at least one third of those if not half of them. So it’s been a solid tool for us.

SH: Who do you consider to be your No. 1 or No. 2 competitor? You keep on referring to the competitive set. Who is your competitive set?

ES: Our competitive set is Shape, Women’s Health and Self. We include Health in that group from time to time. Their median age is about 10 years older than ours so they are sometimes not in our competitive just because they’re older. The core books are Shape, Women’s Health and Self.

SH: With the demands on print and with advertisers now selecting one or two instead of going deeper into each category; do you fear that a day will come when each one of these categories will only have one or two? Is it the survival of the fittest? Or what’s your recipe for success, for staying a leader in this category because all the names you mentioned are tough competition?

ES: We think delivering our reader, our woman exactly what she wants, that that is the key to success and not trying to be all things to all people. We know that our readers love our brand because they love our exercise-related editorial, our nutrition editorial, our health editorial. We aren’t trying to cover sex and relationships and finance and a lot of other things and there are magazines out there that are trying to become almost general interest.

We know why our readers like our magazine and our website and we try to stay true to that. We feel that is the real key to success, giving her what she wants and what she needs. And our audience numbers, we just had a 24 percent increase in our audience the fall wave of MRI and every other magazine in our category had a decrease. So we had a substantial growth there.

Our web traffic is enormous and we are generally No. 1 or No. 2 in web traffic for monthly unique visitors. We’re at 4.7 million uniques right now from comScore. There are really solid numbers being delivered. We have 1.2 million followers on Facebook, which is huge within our category. We give her what she wants so she comes back.

SH: If somebody comes to you and says, “Eric, you’re a publisher, you’ve been doing this for some time, I have an idea for a new magazine,” what would you tell them?

ES: I would tell them make sure you have good financial backing. That you have all the other mediums covered off. That you must have a good website, you must have a strong social media platform and you must really understand who your target audience is and what they want and deliver that in a best-in-class manner.

SH: My final question, my traditional final question, what keeps Eric up at night?

ES: Thinking about the next cool, compelling idea that’s going to make our advertisers jump for joy, ring their registers and make our female audience very happy with the content they’re receiving or the experience they’re receiving from our brand. We’re always thinking about the next cool thing.

We are just unveiling something new as well; I don’t think the press release has anything on this, so you’re getting a little scoop.

We have about two million e-newsletters that we send out on a monthly basis and one of the more successful ones is called the Daily Fit Tip and there are over 525,000 women who have opted in to receive that Daily Fit Tip email every day.

And we just partnered with The Better Show, Meredith’s daily talk show, and we’re now bringing the Daily Fit Tip to life so it’s a really fun 60-second segment that takes place every day on the daily show and now we can integrate advertisers not only into the newsletter and into the magazine but also into the TV show as well. That’s a new program we have out there.

Last year, we also reached out to the folks at Men’s Journal. That was a rarity in the media industry. I reached out to the folks at Wenner Media because we don’t have any purely male titles at Meredith and felt like it would be a good thing for both of our brands to have a male/female counterpart. So that has proven to be a successful partnership for us as well with the Men’s Journal folks.

It’s those types of things that keep me up at night, trying to think of the next new program, the best new ways to deliver advertisers messages.

And you know, magazines are not going away. The one thing that I think is so special about print is it’s the one medium where consumers say that the advertising is part of the overall experience.

SH: Thank you.

© Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, 2014.

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