Our Five-Year Makeover Is Coming

Our Five-Year Makeover Is ComingBy Brian Rowland, Publisher

In the professional publishing industry it is standard for a magazine to go through a makeover on the average of once every five years. So, as we embark on our 11th year, I want to give you a head’s up that Emerald Coast Magazine is set to undergo it’s second makeover with our April/May issue.

Not coincidentally, that will also be the first issue under the leadership of our new editor, Zandra Wolfgram. The timing could not have been better.

Before we embarked on this new direction, Zandra challenged me with the idea of conducting market research on our readers, non-readers, clients and representatives of the general population of the Emerald Coast marketplace to understand what they are currently looking for in a local magazine. With her many years of corporate experience, her list of justifications made the decision quite easy. Her idea: Let’s find out what our readers want — and ask them if we are providing it.

So, late last fall, we embarked on a three-part research project. First, we engaged the services of a moderator to facilitate a blind focus group. The individuals involved had no idea who was conducting the session, which asked them detailed questions about Emerald Coast and the other magazines in the market. Separately, we invited select leaders in the region to sit with us and share their feedback on all aspects of the magazine at a deep dive idea sharing session. They didn’t hold back and we appreciate their candor. Finally, we emailed a questionnaire to 1,000 Emerald Coast readers. We compiled responses from all elements of the project into a 50-page report that our management team thoroughly reviewed.

Though 85 percent of you said you love Emerald Coast and believe we are the best lifestyle magazine on the Emerald Coast, you also told us we could improve. I must admit that a good 25 percent of the information and responses surprised me and provided critical information about how our magazine is perceived and what the readers of the Emerald Coast market want to see and learn. It is a departure from Tallahassee Magazine, which has a 30-year track record in a different market, with a different demographic — even though we use the same direct mail model that enables us to reach homes with an annual $100,000-plus household income.

So, long story short, we are providing a top to bottom re-design of Emerald Coast. Editorially, our content will be different, and you will notice a distinct design change. I won’t tell you specifically what we plan to do, but be assured it reflects what you have asked for. What won’t change is our distribution method. We will continue to provide this magazine to our region’s higher income households via direct mail.

Why? Because we feel our advertisers deserve to know who receives our publication. Other magazines in our market have a “drop and pray” distribution method — drop them off everywhere and pray people pick them up. Of those who do, who are they?

Our research told us that many people have no idea where to get Emerald Coast Magazine, creating the perception that we are not readily available. But that problem is easy to overcome. In addition to being available for purchase at Barnes and Noble and Books-A-Million, beginning with the April issue we will increase our press run so that we will be available at our advertisers’ locations and at carefully selected, high traffic points in Walton and Okaloosa counties.

You spoke. We listened. And we will deliver what you have asked for.

We will continue to maintain our high journalistic standards that we know the intelligent reader deserves and appreciates. So, if you have been holding out to advertise until we write a story about you and your business, it’s not going to happen. There are titles that will welcome your dollars in exchange for editorial coverage. Emerald Coast Magazine will stay on the high road because there is no other traffic on it.

So, here’s to an exciting launch to our revamped magazine and a great 2011 — we have all certainly paid our dues and deserve a good one.