Niche magazine taps into 'Outdoor' media space

MUMBAI: There are only three magazines in the world dedicated solely to outdoor advertising. And one of them is Outdoor Today brought out in India.

Published and edited by Vasant Jante, Outdoor Today covers an area where very few have treaded. Jante has another niche magazine in his kitty in POP Today, which as the name suggests covers point of purchase advertising.

Jante has carved a niche for himself in the outdoor advertising magazine business and is ready to roll out a third magazine called Visual Merchandising and Retail Design, which will be released in January next year. This again, will be a niche product.



Jante's journey in the publishing arena started with POP Today. Says he, "The idea of POP Today came to me in 1994 when I was working for a POP design company. At that time there wasn't a communication platform for the POP industry. I slept on the idea for a few years and tried to think whether it was the right time or not for such a thing. But finally, I left that job and got into the publishing business and launched POP Today in December 2000. Initially, I was planning to club everything together - outdoor, POP etc in one magazine because I thought that one magazine would be enough for all. But I was wrong - especially from the advertiser's point of view. They came to me and said that they were not into POP and hence not to include them in the magazine."

Being one of the three players in the outdoor advertising magazine business worldwide sounds all hunky dory. But the trail hasn't been an easy one for Jante as the one hurdle he faced time and again was that of content for his magazine.



Talking about the international scene in the same arena, Jante said, "I thought there was a great market for advertisers in the outdoor industry. In UK, if someone wants to do a campaign - there are only four media owners - so one can get in touch with one of them and your job is done."

But in India, it's not so. He further elaborates, "In India, we have some 1000 - 1500 media owners who have more than 100 sites. Apart from that there are others too. So in total, if we count even those who have one or two sites, there would be something close to 5000 - 6000 sites. So that in itself is a big opportunity for me. If there are so many media owners, how are they going to communicate to their customers? That was where I came in and I thought that there was a place for an outdoor advertising magazine."



Jante launched his second publication Outdoor Today in April 2002. The magazine initially started out as a quarterly, but has been recently changed into a bi-monthly. He explains, "I took this step as I felt that four months was too long a period for anyone to wait for a magazine to come out."

So was there matter enough for him to take a plunge into the bi-monthly publication scene, since he anyway faced a problem on the content front? To this, Jante said that he had content syndication tie-ups in the US and the UK since the market there is very strong and is backed by a whole lot of research. "In the US, there is an organisation called - OAAA (Outdoor American Advertising Association), which has done phenomenal research work. Also, there is another organisation called the Federation of Outdoor Advertising, which has again done very good research. So I had tied up with them for content and hence in that aspect, our networking with international organisations is very strong and there are no issues there," says Jante.

Apart from Outdoor Today, the two magazines worldwide that are dedicated to outdoor advertising are Outdoor Advertising, which is a monthly in the US and Out of Home Media, which is published by the Federation of Outdoor Advertising. The latter does not get published regularly and only comes out as and when there is a conference organised by the above mentioned body.

Says Jante, "Today, my revenue generation for Outdoor Today is much more than POP Today. The simple reason is that the number of bigger players are more in outdoor. There are more than 100 players who have a billing of more than Rs 200 million. That number was what made me think about the prospect of the magazine."

Also, since POP Today was already an established player in the market with a strong and loyal subscriber base; Outdoor Today was literally born with a silver spoon in it's mouth. Jante says, "I had a very strong base of POP and my target audience was not much different. So with the subscriber base and TG of POP, the stage was set for Outdoor Today. A new product was happily lapped up by my subscribers."

Moving on to trace the problems he faced when he decided to change Outdoor Today from a quarterly to a bimonthly, Jane says, "Editorially, it was tough when I changed Outdoor Today from a quarterly to a bi-monthly I knew that if I really want to give quality editorial stuff to my readers, it wasn't going to be easy. There were enough number of advertisers who I could have profiled and fill up my magazine with it. But that wasn't my objective. Now, that the magazine is a bimonthly, it has helped the subscribers and the advertisers because the recall value is much higher now."

He also mentions that as a result of this his ad revenue has not gone down but has remained more or less the same. Elaborating further on the content syndication part of it, he says, "I'm still having a tough time because there are not many layers in this category. In POP there are many layers like signage, point of purchase, below-the-line, instant marketing etc. Also FMCG, durables and lifestyle goods requirements are completely different from each other in the POP segment. But in outdoor there are not many layers. So editorially, there is a problem because of the lack of research work, measurements and checks and balances. If you look at my last six to eight issues, you will find that we have shifted a lot of focus on international work because data is readily documented there and secondly there is a lot of research happening."

It is only from the latest issue of Outdoor Today that Jante has started talking more about the Indian outdoor advertising industry. The cover story is that of a research done by Media Research Users Council (MRUC) on how Indian outdoor has gone scientific. "We hope to have better content from an Indian perspective from now on. But, I repeat, content is always going to be tough for me. It's not going to be easy," reiterates Jante.

Talking about the subscriber base, Jante says, "We print 10,000 copies of each edition of Outdoor Today, which goes to our subscribe base comprising advertising agencies, marketers and the industry. Outdoor Today, he says, has a received a good response from them. The profile of advertisers who advertise in the magazines are basically media owners and machinery owners (the latter usually advertise because they want to reach out to the industry).

"If you ask me the number of advertisers I have on board, it is not really much. The fact remains that one cannot survive on just one publication and hence I thought about launching my third - Visual Merchandising and Retail Design, which will again be a niche magazine," said Jante.

As a matter of fact, in this field, Jante points out, there is no scope for a second product, so he doesn't really have any competition.

To build awareness about his magazines, Jante advertises in The Brand Reporter and sometimes in the Business World. However, his major focus is direct marketing in creating awareness. He recently sent out complimentary copies to all media owners, television channels and publications, for the same.

As far is reach is concerned, in India Outdoor Today's reach is highest in the Western zone. Second comes the Southern belt and then the North and the East follows. The magazines are also distributed in the Middle East (200 copies), US (650 copies) and Australia (200 copies). Apart from that, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan are also a part of his distribution network.

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