May 22, 2017 Last Updated 1:16 pm

Hearst’s newest magazine launch, Airbnbmag, set to hit newsstands tomorrow

The premiere issue has 45 pages of advertising (which Hearst claims is all paid), and its next issue will be September, just in time for ad reps to show off during fall planning

The legacy magazine companies aren’t that into new launches these days, such is the cost of a new launch, and the odds that it can attract enough ad pages. The aggressive launchers are smaller publishers, often who have been targeting the luxury market. Who can blame them, money is being moved to top of the food chain, and the current administration is eager to accelerate the trend.

So, the trend among large publishers is to hedge their bets by attaching their fate to celebrities. Hearst’s O, The Oprah Magazine is probably the gold standard for such a venture.

On the hand, Hearst’s Dr. Oz The Good Life is the shot across the bow, a warning that there is more to launching a magazine than simply tying it to a celebrity. For one thing, it helps that it is the right celebrity, and Mehmet Oz was not the right celebrity. Launched in 2014, Hearst just announced that the title would go from ten issues a year down to quarterly, and raise its price. The magazine is, in other words, about to become a bookazine, dependent on reader revenue rather than paid ad pages.

But Hearst has not stopped launches. Its newest is in the travel category, and again Hearst is tying its fate to another well known name, though this time not a person but a company: Airbnbmag. The premiere issue is set to appear on newsstands tomorrow.

The new title is launching with a rate base, or guaranteed circulation of 350,000, and a cover price of $3.99.

Airbnbmag‘s next issue isn’t until September, but the premiere issue is said to have 45 pages of advertising in it, and Michael Clinton, publishing director at Hearst Magazines, told the WSJ that it is all paid. That’s hard to believe, though I am in no position to contradict him. But I would guess that at least some of those ads are there as favors for important advertisers — like what you see and you will be asked to sign up, if not for September, than definitely for whatever the publication schedule will be for 2018.

But this launch is unique in that Airbnb and Hearst are splitting the costs. That means that the travel company sees a marketing value to the magazine and are willing to spend a little if the new title can drive business. Meanwhile, Hearst hopes they can sell ads and subscriptions so that it can become a profit center, even if they will have to split the proceeds with their new partner.

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky will have a column in the premiere issue, much like the CEO of United is seen in the inflight magazine Hemispheres each issue.


Hearst is going digitally old school with Airbnbmag. Chief Content Officer Joanna Coles said that the digital edition won’t be available until two weeks after the print edition, harkening back to the way editors and publishers thought about digital back in the late nineties and into the 2000’s.

But Hearst has always had a hardcore attitude towards digital editions. It always has made readers pay for digital, even when they are print subscribers. This made readers furious, leading to plenty of negative reviews inside the Newsstand (back in the day).

The actual digital editions, however, were(and are) generally good, readable digital editions.

But Hearst, like other publishers, always has had a love-hate relationship with Apple’s Newsstand. The first complaint was that Apple would be taking 30 percent. The second was that Apple saw the subscribers as their customers, not the publisher’s, and so would not share reader information.

Still, publishers believed the future was digital and so launched digital edition apps.

Cosmopolitan, for instance, quickly could report that over 250K of its circulation was in digital edition by the end of 2012. Soon, we all thought, any magazine that didn’t have at least 10 percent of its circulation in digital editions was doing something wrong.

But, as it turned out, Apple was doing something wrong.

Apple failed to treat publishers like legitimate partners, for instance, and its subscription mechanism was faulty. It offered, for example, a one-month subscription option that many publishers mistakenly grabbed on to in order to lure readers. It was an obvious way to go for readers because the one-month price was usually far below the price for a single issue.

But the one-month subscription mechanism meant that readers would be reminded every month that their subscription would renew… unless they cancelled it. And they did cancel, in droves.

Today, Cosmo has only around 85K in digital edition readership, and over 13K of that comes in from Texture. As a result, verified circulation has blown up from just under 1 percent of circulation to over 130K, or nearly 5 percent of total subscribers.

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