Kidnets tune in to magazine brand extensions

While kid mags can be profitable in their own right, kidcasters in the U.S. reap an added bonus: The magazines provide an excellent vehicle for marketing Web efforts, TV programming, tours and merch-and generally help to reinforce overall brands. Since Fox...
August 1, 2000

While kid mags can be profitable in their own right, kidcasters in the U.S. reap an added bonus: The magazines provide an excellent vehicle for marketing Web efforts, TV programming, tours and merch-and generally help to reinforce overall brands. Since Fox Kids launched a magazine 10 years ago, kidcaster publications have risen to the highest ranks of the market, thanks to contributions from Nickelodeon, Disney and soon, Cartoon Network.

Nickelodeon magazine (US$3.50/copy, US$19.97/subscription) appears in the U.S. and Canada 10 times a year, and its premiere in 1993 marked the kid channel’s first magazine. The humor and entertainment mag for kids ages six to 14 serves up a raft of features based on a new theme-such as water, sports or architecture-in each issue, along with puzzles, jokes, pranks and original comics. Features such as a ‘Hey, Herb!’ column in which Nick president Herb Scannell answers kids’ questions, ‘prankvertisements,’ and a canine roving reporter bring the Nick attitude to life on the magazine’s pages.

‘One of the critical ideas behind our success is that the magazine is a brand extension’ whose content is ‘inspired by the attributes, the attitude and the tone of the brand,’ says Dan Sullivan, senior VP/GM at Nickelodeon Magazine Group. The magazine allows the cabler to ‘extend the brand in ways that print can do differently or better than TV,’ says Sullivan, such as delivering more depth of information. As well, an ‘Ooze News’ section of Nickelodeon insider info, along with cover or feature stories about Nick initiatives and advertising help to drive traffic to the channel and its other spin-offs. Nick also publishes a Spanish-language bimonthly edition of Nickelodeon for Mexico and parts of Latin America.

Not even a year old, Nick Jr. Magazine (US$2.95/copy, US$17.50/subscription) targets American and Canadian preschoolers ages two to seven and their parents. The magazine features ‘a high degree of developmental activities for kids,’ says Sullivan. Each bi-monthly issue uses symbols to tell parents and caregivers which early learning skills kids can develop by completing an activity in the magazine. A ‘Noodle’ pullout section-with a certificate of accomplishment-includes activities kids can do on their own, a ‘Heads Up’ section offers Nick Jr. news, and the magazine includes activities for parents and kids to do together. Its rate base is 500,000.

Last April, Nickelodeon GAS-Games and Sports for Kids spun off a supplement to help raise awareness for the new digital network. The quarterly mini-mag is currently bundled in Nickelodeon magazine, and Nick hopes to eventually develop it into a stand-alone.

Advertising in Nickelodeon magazine is kid-targeted, while Nick Jr. Magazine, which managed to pull in ad revenues totaling US$796,250 during the first five months of this year (according to Publishers Information Bureau), is more of a vehicle for advertisers to reach parents.

As to whether Nick perceives Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. as revenue sources or promotional vehicles, Sullivan says: ‘This is a profit-making business that has the added-value dimension of being good for the brand.’ The lion’s share of revenues come from ad sales rather than subscriptions, and the channel hopes to grow GAS to be profitable too.

Fox Kids Magazine ‘really helps us build a connection with our kids’ and ‘make Fox Kids a 24-7 experience,’ which is especially important given that Fox Kids Network airs just 14 hours a week, says Doug Yates, senior VP of marketing for Fox Family Channel and Fox Kids Network. Plus, it fosters two-way communication with kids by publishing their letters and illustrations and inviting kids to take part in contests.

Fox Kids Magazine actually debuted before Fox Kids Network in the U.S., serving as ‘a tool to help launch the network,’ says Yates. The Fox Kids Club started in December 1989, the first issue of the magazine was distributed to members in April 1990, and the network began airing in September 1990. The magazine was rebranded last summer to be consistent with the new, icon-driven Fox Kids global brand.

Today, with over four million readers, the magazine boasts the largest circulation of all kids magazines in the U.S., although kids receive the publication free along with their Fox Kids Club membership up to the age of 15. Inside the quarterly issues, kids can find interviews with celebrities ranging from pro skateboarder Tony Hawk to animated star Bart Simpson, sneak peeks at movies like the upcoming Digimon feature, short stories, comics, games and posters.

About 60% of the magazine’s content is related to the Fox Kids Network. The ‘Must See’ page at the front of each issue relays TV news, including a look ahead at series story lines. The best way the magazine drives tune-in to the network, says Yates, is through exclusive watch-and-win contests highlighted in the magazine. In the upcoming fall issue, a merchandise catalog will invite kids to join a Digimon fan club and provide ‘the opportunity to continue the experience, but through merchandise.’

‘The other strategy is increasing the interface with our website,’ says Yates. For example, an article about howler monkeys in the spring 2000 issue asked kids to log on to the Fox Kids site to hear the monkeys’ call. As well, passwords in the magazine unveil secret new on-line features.

Another hook for kids-and advertisers-is a gatefold inside each issue that each of the 185 Fox stations can customize with local editorial, ads or sponsorships that include special offers for the over four million Fox Kids Club members.

While the magazine traditionally has been more of a promotional vehicle, Fox Kids is looking to grow it as a revenue source. Yates won’t disclose ad revenue, but says the magazine breaks even and that promotional packages combining the network, magazine, website and radio show are options for advertisers.

Most recently, Fox Kids has been using regional kid mag spin-offs to help its networks spread around the world. A Spanish-language edition launched in North, Central and South America last May, which is sold on newsstands and published by Editorial Vid (for Mexico, Central America, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela and Colombia) and Editorial Vertice (for Argentina, Chile and Uruguay). Fox Kids Europe is also looking at launching its own magazine.

Disney Adventures (US$2.99/copy, US$14.97/subscription) has evolved to make use of a different model when it comes to brand-building. Published by Buena Vista Magazines, a subsidiary of Disney Publishing Worldwide, the nearly 10-year-old digest for kids ages six to 12 is not directly linked to any of Disney’s kids TV outlets or other media.

‘Kids know what’s hot and that’s what they want to read about, and that’s what you have to give them to succeed,’ says editor-in-chief Suzanne Harper, whether that be Pokémon or Britney Spears. The general-interest magazine-released 10 times a year-is a ‘potpourri of everything a kid likes, from comics to puzzles to jokes and riddles to information about movies, music, TV and video games.’

However, what’s of interest to kids often will include Disney properties, says Harper, and a big Disney animated feature film generally will appear on the cover when the movie is released. Disney-related coverage accounts for roughly 25% to 40% of the content in each issue, and the ‘Backstage Disney’ section provides news about Disney’s many kid-friendly brands. Harper also says that the magazine avoids diluting the Disney brand by not allowing a competitor’s property, particularly one that’s animated, on the cover.

Disney Adventures works with other Disney brands in a ‘Win an Adventure’ sweepstakes in each issue. The Disney Store, Disneyland and The Disney Channel are among the brands that have teamed with the magazine to offer such adventures, and Disney brands also advertise in the magazine.

Marketers looking to tie in to the magazine and other Disney kids media can create custom promotional programs that best suit their objectives, says Lisa Heim, senior promotion manager at Disney Publishing Worldwide, including participation in events, such as a mall tour scheduled for the Buena Vista magazines Disney Adventures, Disney Magazine and FamilyFun this October. As part of the tour, marketing opportunities include setting up interactive booths and providing product samples, demos or other offerings for kids.

Not to miss out, Cartoon Network is vying for a share of kids’ pocket money with this month’s launch of its first U.S. mag, a one-time fanzine for TV series The Powerpuff Girls, published under license by Chicago’s H&S Media.

‘We think there’s a lot of opportunities [in the magazine category], so we’re exploring it,’ says Jamie Porges, VP off-channel commerce for Cartoon Network. ‘It’s an important driver for the kids business.’

Called The Powerpuff Girls Powerzine on one side and Mojo Jojo’s Monkeyzine on the other, the flip magazine devotes two-thirds of its space to the series’ superheroes and the remainder to the trio’s arch villain. It includes interviews with the girls, trivia, an episode guide, postcards and horoscopes.

Like the show, the fanzine’s primary target audience is boys and girls ages nine to 14, although Porges expects its appeal to skew older and younger. The ad-supported publication will be sold via traditional and nontraditional newsstands for US$5.99.

Porges says the one-off will allow the channel to gauge how much work would be required on a regular basis to put out a magazine, and response to the fanzine will help the channel to decide its next steps in the magazine market.

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