Is Lucky pioneering a new form of custom publishing?


Is Lucky pioneering a new form of custom publishing? The wall between “traditional” and “custom” magazine publishing seems to be blurring even more through a creative arrangement being pioneered between Conde Nast’s Lucky magazine and Wal-mart. While I’ve blogged many times about the strategy of magazines trying to utilize the 800-lb. gorilla distribution channel of Wal-Mart, the local newspaper in Bentonville, Ark. is the surprising source of this news about a unique magazine strategy: Apparently, copies of Lucky magazine sold in Wal-Mart include a special section called “Lucky Shops Wal-Mart.”

Quote from the Northwest Arkansas News:

“Since Wal-Mart is the biggest retailer in the country and we were the first and biggest shopping magazine, we figured it would be a good match,” said Lucky Magazine fashion editor Liz Kiernan….”Lucky Shops Wal-Mart” is a four-page section in the back of Lucky Magazines sold at Wal-Mart. A 3 1/2-inch flap on the cover advertises the Wal-Mart section, which is not available in issues sold elsewhere. The four pages are dedicated to beauty, home decor and fashion. “We pick out our favorite items and put them in the layout,” said Kiernan, who oversees the two fashion pages. Lucky started the section one year ago, and has added a Wal-Mart section to roughly eight of the last 12 issues. “It’s considered cool to find inexpensive clothes at Lucky — that’s sort of the philosophy around here,” Kiernan said.

The reporter, perhaps because she is writing for a “local” newspaper, actually gets an amazing amount of information from the typically tight-lipped folks at Wal-Mart and Conde Nast. For example, she reports that the 4-page section has helped to increase by 76 percent the number of Lucky issues (units) sold in Wal-Mart during last year, to 23,000 copies a month. (I’ll skip over my typical rant regarding reporters and numbers and not ask why she didn’t make the obvious observation that 23,000 copies of the magazine is only about seven copies of Lucky per each of the 3,200 stores, per month — not such of a blockbuster performance.)

Despite appearing to be an advertorial section, the article implies “Lucky Shops Wal-Mart” is not paid-for by Wal-Mart: “Lucky usually contacts Wal-Mart with specific items in mind. ‘They usually know what the trends are,’ said Suzanne Haney with Wal-Mart Corporate Communications.” Is it paid for? Is it an advertorial? The article does not make this clear.

Very interesting article that raises lots of questions: How is the ROI measured by Lucky? What is the increase in net revenues from the 23,000 copies jn return for the in-kind value (if not paid-for) of four-pages of custom, advertorial content and a 3 1/2-inch flap promo that sprinkles the Lucky-brand karma-pixie-dust onto the Wal-mart brand? Is it worth it? The seven readers of the rexblog want to know!

Update: I have posted scans of the issue in a new post.