The New Synergy

Bob Johnson
Magazines aren’t dead. Quite the contrary according to a recent magazine industry ad that’s been running in a number of publications that boldly states that the Internet and social networking — the usual suspects blamed for the decrease in magazine readership – are in fact bolstering online subscriptions to the print editions, especially for the young-adult, 18-to-34 demographic.

And although it may be a stretch to believe the same thing is happening with hardcore magazines, recent successes make it hard to deny that there’s still life left in skin mags.

The born again trend in XXX publications is seemingly due to a new synergy developing between video production companies and traditional print media. But this isn’t a revelation – video companies produced magazines based on their titles as far back as the ‘70’s and ‘80’s when companies like Neil Bloom’s Swedish Erotica produced mags with XXX megastars like Seka who graced the covers.

Today, print is becoming more of an ancillary medium to help struggling studios bolster their bottom lines rather than just gravy revenue as in year’s past. Evil Angel General Manager Christian Mann, a veteran of adult who virtually grew up in adult publishing having worked for his father’s Flamingo Press in the late ‘70’s, says that while he was at Catalina Video in the ‘80’s each one of the company’s titles had a magazine for every scene in the movie, no less a title for the film.

Of course the landscape has changed. Because of the rapid rise of free porn on the Internet and the economic crash of late, most print publishers have experienced significant circulation drops and lost revenue, much like their adult DVD counterparts.

But in the spirit of diversification (read, do whatever it takes to stay competitive and not drown) some publishers and studios have joined forces in symbiotic relationships to weather the daunting storms of the past few years.

Publishers who never considered video production and producers who thought print publishing was some kind of archaic media began to join forces. And there were even some (the smart ones) who embraced publishing beforehand simply to increase their media empires.

The prime example of successfully diversifying a brand is of course Larry Flynt’s Hustler that began its empire first with magazines and then movies spinning off Hustler DVDs from the flagship publication and other titles later like “Barely Legal.” And publishers Penthouse and Private in Europe have both has spawned their own line of videos in a number of permutations over the years. But the economic crunch has forced orthodox video producers to look more toward publishing as a potential life preserver.

In the last few years strategic alliances have been forged between video and traditional adult magazine publishers. Some examples include Blue Horizon, publisher of High Society, Cheri and Playgirl magazines that includes DVD’s with their publications through Pulse Distribution and Magna Publishing (Swank et al) that publishes a Joanna Angel-centric Burning Angel magazine.

And the trend swings both ways. Some publishers have moved into DVD production including Score Group that produces a very successful line of big-boob niche DVDs as well as Magna which also took this path building a DVD business based on its popular Swank franchise.

One standout example of a studio that blazed the path and is now seeing success in print is Evil Angel and its signature publication Buttman Magazine.

Although Buttman was created 13 years ago in a much more welcoming economic climate, the idea of a video company publishing a print magazine — especially a newsstand venture — wasn’t thought of as a smart move, especially by veteran publishers.

But convention never stopped Evil Angel owner John Stagliano and Buttman was born. “John spoke with well-known publisher George Mavety, then publisher of a number of gay newsstand magazines who told John that there would be no interest or awareness among consumers for a Buttman magazine,’ Mann said.

The thinking was that a video company’s product wouldn’t resonate with readers who were used to a certain format. And more importantly why would a successful producer want to take on another medium?

Mann explained that Stagliano intuitively knew that the Evil Angel and Buttman brands were the power that would drive the publication and the strategy to bolster the company’s marketplace success. “John’s vision was to do a magazine not just with photos from the movies, but created specifically for the consumer with unique editorial and photo spreads unlike anything else on the newsstand,” Mann says.

Stagliano was right. Although Buttman magazine has been affected by the Internet and the general downturn in publishing in the last few years (newsstand circulation is down about 15 percent according to Mann), Buttman magazine has prospered and survived where other adult magazines have either disappeared or have scrambled to boost readership.

“We’re down a bit but it’s not scary. Our subscriptions remain steady thanks to a loyal readership. We’ve also cut our print runs and eliminated remains. The readership base is loyal – especially among the prison population where there’s no Internet access,” Mann says.

Now the magazine is not only a revenue generator ($10.95 cover price) but a solid promotional tool that announces current and new DVD releases and most importantly keeps the Evil Angel and Buttman brand on the minds of consumers.

“A publication that can’t be replicated anywhere else – with unique content – will have a shot of surviving,” Mann says.

And unique content piggybacked with added value of studio DVDs is a formula that Blue Horizon Vice President of Publishing Vincent Stevens says is “helping bring back his company’s circulation to former, more profitable days.”

Stevens notes that High Society, Cheri, Finally Legal, Purely 18 and more recently Playgirl magazines have all seen a healthy turnaround in circulation and sales.

Blue Horizon has partnered with Pulse to include DVDs with each magazine from studios including Lethal Hardcore, Platinum X, Red Light District and others that has over time given the tiles a needed shot in the arm. The company also has a close relationship with movie giant Wicked Pictures and published a special Wicked magazine that included a customized four-hour DVD.

Blue Horizon isn’t alone in embracing the video synergy. Magna Publishing, publishers of Swank, Velvet, Club and other prominent newsstand titles cut a deal with alt-porn princess Joanna Angel last year to produce a Joanna Angel-centric Burning Angel magazine last year.

As a result of its success the company released the second issue earlier this year when Magna Editorial Director Dan Davis told XBIZ, “We were blown away by the response of the first issue of BurningAngel magazine and couldn’t wait to get the second issue out there.”

And if getting in bed with print isn’t something studios are willing to do to help their bottom line, advertising in the medium is still a viable option.

GlamorGirl magazine, a free circulation adult industry publication, has been around for nearly 10 years and is supported in large part by video company advertising.

Publisher Rich Hansen says Vivid Entertainment was his first advertiser, helping to launch the magazine in 2001. Today, GlamorGirl carries ads from numerous established studios.

“We entered the market around the time the Internet was really taking off, so we knew exactly what we were facing going in,” Hansen says. “There were already doom-sayers predicting the end of print. But in my mind, a web address is much the same as a phone number, no one is going to call it unless they know what it is.”

Like Stevens and other publishing professionals, Hansen says that there’s a longevity to print that’s missing with online marketing that he describes as “A flash of light on a computer screen.”

“Print ads can keep on working for our clients months or even years beyond their initial cover date,” Hansen points out.

And the continued publishing of printed magazines, despite an influx of technology like the iPad and hand-held readers, has actually created the physical template for publishers to use a related technology to bolster publisher’s bottom lines.

Digital magazines are now providing a means to incorporate value-added video into a publication as well as a host of other benefits including live links to more editorial and advertisers’ websites and ecommerce opportunities.

Although some naysayers hold that the new medium will hurt print, adult professionals are embracing digital publishing as yet another means to diversify. (UCM) pioneered adult digital publishing since 2006 and includes a number of major publishers (both straight and gay) in its online newsstand including Hustler, Penthouse, Evil Angel, Swank, High Society, Private and many more.

Print publishing veteran Caryn Goldberg who’s now with UCM says traditional video studios realized the potential and jumped on board early on. “Evil Angel, for example, went digital with their print publication, Buttman, and added video clips to accompany the photo layouts that promoted the Evil Angel line of videos. We were also able to offer their fans and collector’s digital editions of out-of-print back issues of Buttman,” Goldberg says. “Colt Studios began creating digital-only publications distributed exclusively by UCM to accompany each of their major releases, including video clips from each scene of the movie.”

And going digital is cost effective according to UCM. Publishers can create their online versions (that can be read in different digital formats) for only a fraction of the cost of paper, printing, postage, freight, distribution, etc.

“For adult video and toy companies already producing magazines, catalogs, calendars and other print products, starting with UCM is simple. Production of the digital editions begins with the same files used for print production,” Goldberg says.

Using the new medium also helps adult publishers stay tech-savvy. UCM notes that more new mobile reading devices are being launched in late 2010 and as they become popular, the adoption of digital magazines as a medium will continue to increase and will eventually be capable of allowing access to adult apps.

There are also technologies on the horizon that won’t even appear to be digital devices that will surpass even iPadlike readers. These new paperthin, plastic plasma-based devices can be rolled up and folded just like paper magazines.

And when that happens we’d have come full circle and adult publishers will once again be able to defend their existence by saying, “The best thing about an adult magazine is that you can take it with you into the bathroom.”


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