OLD Media Moves

Worth aims for high-end biz audience

May 20, 2009


Richard Bradley is the editor of Worth magazine, which is relaunching with its June issue after being acquired by Sandow Media in February 2008.

Before joining Worth a year ago, Bradley was executive editor of 02138 magazine in Boston and the author of three books. He also worked at George magazine.

The magazine, originally launched in the early 1990s, is aiming for an audience of high net worth readers. Its design has changed to where it is now printed on paper typically used to publish books, and its size is somewhat smaller than the typical magazine.

Worth will be mailed next week to a 110,000 households with a minimum net worth of $2 million in major metropolitan markets, and it’s expected to publish every two months starting in October.

The magazine will also be sold for $18.95 a copy at select newsstands at private airports.

Bradley talked Wednesday to Talking Biz News about the changes. What follows is an edited transcript.

Why re-launch a magazine that has had trouble making a go of it in the past?

A couple of reasons. I think that it is first of all, the brand of Worth is very strong. People know the name. They tend to remember the magazine with positive associations. In the past few years, many people haven’t seen it. But when I mention it to people that I work at Worth, they say, “Oh, I like that magazine.” But they don’t know what it’s doing now. So that’s a testament to the power of the brand.

You start from that foundation and think if there is something that can be done editorially to revamp this magazine. We think there is. In this economic period, a magazine of financial advice is of interest to people. And two, there really is not another magazine in this niche. In the realm of business magazines targeted to the affluent, that’s a relatively crowded space. But personal finance magazines targeted to the affluent, there’s not so much. It was ripe for re-energizing.

Why do you think it will be successful this time around?

I hope it’s a combination of a strong business plan and a consistent editorial vision. I don’t think the magazine’s challenges in the past were a reflection on the editorial quality. If anything, I think you can say that it’s a testament to the viability of the editorial that the magazine has gone through several owners and people still think well of it. I’m optimistic about this version of the magazine. I think we have a great business plan that’s really different — a combination of regional and national advertising — that will help smooth out the ups and downs in each of those areas, and an editorial mission that is necessary.

How will the editorial content be different than it has in the past?

We’ve dramatically redesigned the magazine so in some ways it will feel more like a book or a journal than a conventional magazine. We have done away with the standard front of the book followed by a feature well followed by whatever is stuck in the back. We have split the magazine into three sections, which are thematically divided. They are called Make, Grow and Live. Make refers to business and entrepreneurships. Grow refers to wealth management and investment. And Live refers to lifestyle issues such as philanthrophy, travel and health.

So the structure of the magazine is very clearly defined with an emphasis on the practical. There is no way that you won’t pick up this magazine and find something useful — if you are in our target audience. We’re really trying something different. We want to respect the magazine’s past, but really modernize it. For business magazines, this is a tough climate. You need to experiment.

How did the magazine decide on its unique size and paper?

There was some sense that for magazines to survive, they need to convey value and not have a sense of disposability. In other words, this is not something that you flip through and then toss away. We wanted to create a magazine that looks and feels like it’s something worth saving, kind of a metaphor for our editorial content. We want to make something that people would keep around, maybe put on their bookshelf or keep on their desk.

How big will the editorial staff be?

Small. We’ll be about half a dozen. Maybe less. Four to six. There’s a reason for that. If you look at the editorial staffs of some of our competitors, if you look at Portfolio, you see an enormous expense. It’s very difficult these days to be able to maintain that kind of staff. We want to run our magazine like we want our readers to manage their finances –smartly.

Will you look at freelancers to provide some of your content?

It will be a combination of things written in-house and articles written by freelancers. To be fair, we’ll be bi-monthly, so that takes the pressure off. If we were a weekly magazine, we’d obviously need more people.

What will Worth provide that other personal finance magazines won’t?

Worth will provide wealth creation and management advice and insights for a very sophisticated, affluent audience, and in a deliberately practical and user-friendly format.

How can you keep Worth on the minds of readers with a once-every-two months’ publication schedule?

We are not editorially trying to compete with magazines that tell people what stocks they should pick. Smart and sophisticated financial advice is not going to be irrelevant after six weeks, so you design the magazine for the long term, to get people reading and thinking about financial planning, which is a long-term endeavor. So I think you create editorial content that is relevant for more than the time until your next issue.

The magazine industry is seeing a lot of titles dying because of the decline in advertising. How can Worth swim against that tide?

Several ways, I think. One, I’d rather start a magazine at a time of economic challenge than at the top of an economic bubble. We keep our costs down, and we practice what we preach about financial management. We’ve all seen business magazines that started and rode a bubble and then imploded because their cost structure reflected the bubble.

But I think more important is the business strategy that I referred to before, which is a controlled circulation with a very spefifically targeted audience and an advertising strategy that is balanced with both national and regional advertising. This is in some way a different paradigm for the business model in the magazine industry. We are not trying to reach everyone. We are trying to deliver a very specific product to a very specific group of readers.

If I wanted to buy a copy of Worth, where could I get one?

You could in certain markets, and in certain bookstores, but you’d have to be prepared to pay $18.95 for it. We think there is a lot of value in this magazine, and we’re worth more than $2.99. The Atlantic is trying something similar. Newsweek, I think, is trying something similar. At that price point, you’re not going to buy it unless the content is really relevant to you. We’re not trying to maximize the amount of readers. We’re trying to define the demographics of our readers.

After being at George and 02138, what was your attraction to this magazine?

I am obviously drawn to start-ups. It’s the most fun thing in magazines. This isn’t quite a start-up, but it is in some ways. I really think Adam Sandow an extremely talented publisher who if were based in New York, would be widely written about. But because he is under the radar of the mainstream media, he is less well known. Adam is one of those rare people in magazine publishing who has a strong and coherent editorial vision and game-changing business ideas. I wanted to work with him.

Doing a financial magazine at this point in time also seems like a cultural moment. We are emerging from the chaos of the last nine months with a lot of unanswered questions and shaken assumptions about business and finance and the economy. I think it’s going to be incredibly exciting to be at the helm of a magazine that’s trying to define the questions and suggest some answers.

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