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Desperate Mag Publishers Kick Around New Idea: Create A Giant Ad Network

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It’s been a pretty dispiriting time for magazines. The industry is feeling a little more insecure after the death of Conde Nast’s nearly 70-year-old Gourmet magazine this week, which was shuttered with three other titles. Realizing the cost-cutting alone won’t lead to a turnaround, publishers have been lately groping for answers. One is to get into the hardware business by creating their own e-reader, like Hearst. Last week, Time Inc. was said to be trying to draw other publishers together for a joint venture that will set formats and standards for digital consumption of magazine content. AdAge has details on the latest trial balloon: competing magazine companies may consider forging their own ad network.

The talks are no where near the formal stage and the idea for a cross-publisher ad net doesn’t seem to be serious at this point. There has been one round of preliminary discussions about the ad net idea and there’s the possibility of another, but nothing has been set yet. So take this with a large grain of salt.

According to one unidentified Ad Age source, the ad net push is more a wish and expression of frustration than an actual framework. “We’re getting killed by ad networks” Ad Age’s source said. “A lot of companies feel like, as consumer companies with a flood of online content, if we could just create some scale on our own and sell across it, we can get a lot better ad rates.” On our end, we reached out to a few sources this evening and asked if they had heard anything about the creation of an ad net for the magazine industry. One top digital exec at a major mag company told paidContent, “First I’ve heard of it. Sounds like small web properties and titles.”

As Ad Age notes, the idea for a magazine ad net has been mentioned at various times over the years. Even if the major magazine companies could get an ad net together, it’s doubtful that they would make up the revenue they’ve lost. Magazines main problem is that ad spending has become more diffuse in the online era and it can’t continue to support the bulk of publishing costs. To survive, magazines will have to figure out ways of getting consumers to pick up the expenses of running a publication — both online and off. Ad networks could provide some incremental revenues, in most cases. But magazines are going to have to find real ways of making their brands less costly and more attractive to paying consumers on their own.