By: Jennifer Saba
Only five months have passed since Time Inc. relaunched Life as a newspaper supplement, and already speculation about its long-term prospects abound. So far the publication has seemed a bit thin on advertising, but executives insist it’s on the right track and that they are hitting ? or nearly hitting ? their quotas. “It’s bizarre to make a business assessment for something that’s been around for five months,” Norman Pearlstine, editor in chief of Time Inc., stated testily in mid-February. Launches take a lot of time, he argued, even for familiar brand names. Time Inc. has a history of giving its publications years to gain traction.
Andy Blau, Life’s president, told E&P in his spacious office in New York that “things are going great. We are really thrilled with the response we have been getting from readers and advertisers.” Unlike competitors USA Weekend and Parade, which are carried mostly in Sunday papers, Life is bundled on Fridays (with the exception of the New York Daily News). It has a circ of 12 million, and the Audit Bureau of Circulations will audit Life on a biannual basis.
“We are attracting advertisers that they don’t carry,” Publisher Peter Bauer says about those other newspaper supplements. He says he’s “thrilled” they are carrying ads for Dell and Bose ? “high-quality expensive tech products that look great in Life.” But Dell and Bose ads are also featured in Parade and USA Weekend.
Still, the publication has also carried blue-chip ads for General Motors, Levis, and American Express. Blau adds that Life is sensitive to newspapers and they make sure they are not poaching on their ad territory (such as the retail category).
From an editorial standpoint, Life is gaining access. The second issue featured a dog on its cover, but this has given way to screen stars like Tom Hanks and Bill Murray. The layout, which emphasizes photography and lacks fractionals, might attract more branding-type advertising.
Newspaper companies have also been promoting the supplement to boost circ. The Daily News credited Life (along with many other reasons) for its Sunday circulation growth in its most recent quarterly report. The Los Angeles Times features Life magazine in its ad for Friday-through- Sunday home-delivery subscriptions.
Blau and Bauer point to the Star Tribune in Minneapolis for more proof that Life helps boost sales. But Steve Alexander, senior vice president of circulation at the paper, said that single-copy sales on Friday have been a “mixed bag” and that it’s hard to tell if Life has made much of a dent. The first two weeks of carrying Life “we saw a 3% to 4% increase but then it came down. We didn’t see a real bump,” he says, adding that other factors like winter weather could have contributed as well. The paper will continue to carry the publication, however.
“I think it’s gotten a favorable reaction from readers,” Alexander declared. “I certainly haven’t heard any downside. But there’s been no overwhelming upside, either.”