Custom Publishing Update: A&F PR Machine Chugs On

Regular readers of this weblog (and I know there are at least two) know I have consistently blogged about A&F Quarterly and its demonstration of the power of custom publishing. Abercrombie & Fitch is far from the first to discover this secret, but because they are doing it with such style and controversy (“edgy” in magazine geek lingo), Abercrombie is helping to define and display the potential of customer magazines.

Today, the New York Times reports that A&F Quarterly will begin accepting advertising in its summer issue. Since most reporters who will cover this story will no-doubt suggest that what A&F Quarterly is doing is ground-breaking, I wanted to get on the record regarding this subject.

First, carrying third party advertising in a customer magazine is far from unique, as there are many, many magazines, including some I’m very fond of, which have long carried advertising. If you think about it, such magazines as National Geographic (as it is a “member” magazine) may be categorized as a customer magazine, and it has carried advertising for decades. Even John Deere’s Furrow Magazine, dating back over a century, carries third-party advertising.

Second, A&F Quarterly will never become a profit-center for Abercrobie and Fitch based on its advertising revenue alone. (It could, however, on its circulation, but that’s another post). As soon as they lose focus that the magazine is about enhancing the Abercrombie brand and selling khakis, they will lose the buzz and momentum they currently enjoy.

Third, A&F Quarterly, is doing it right with their strategy of limiting advertising to a set number of spreads. They are creating a perceived scarcity that will have advertisers begging them to get in. Just keep raising the price on those spreads rather than increasing the available space. And, also, when advertisers ask for reader research, tell them that the 25 advertisers lined up behind them actually understand that you have no “readers.”

A&F Quarterly is setting the standard for custom publishing…and in many ways, magazine publishing in general. Rather than go more into why, I’ll save that for later.