Din of silence about the new TV Guide
Media people are under-wowed by redesign
January 18, 2006
When TV Guide embarked on a bold redesign over the summer, it did so as part of a major repositioning in which it shed most of its listings and trimmed its circulation by two-thirds, to a rate base of 3.2 million.
The aim of the 52-year-old magazine was to become relevant again, after years of increasing irrelevance, and the new look would get people talking. That was the idea.
The redesign solved some of TV Guide’s big problems. Certainly, its layout is more attractive, and its larger size is a lot more appealing to advertisers.
But the redesigned TV Guide failed to solve its biggest problem. There have been more than a dozen issues since the redesign debuted in October, but these months later no one is talking. And in an industry where buzz is everything, that does not bode well.
The pocket-sized TV Guide of old, dull-looking as it was, was unique, as the place America’s then-burgeoning TV audience turned to find out what was on that night. That was years ago, though.
The new TV Guide can claim nothing unique. It is but another voice in the already crowded field of celebrity chatter, and a mild one at that in a room full of shrill voices. It now competes, as a latecomer yet, with Entertainment Weekly, People and Us, to name just a few.
Ultimately, the question becomes: Would any redesign of TV Guide get people talking? Or, more bluntly, is there anything TV Guide can do to halt its decline?
The reality may be that the magazine simply waited too long to reposition, allowing others to rush into the celeb genre ahead of it. In the last year alone, the celeb field has gone from seemingly wide open to suddenly overcrowded.
Scott Crystal, TV Guide’s president, defends the redesign, and he says it’s creating the right buzz where it matters, among advertisers.
There’s a true entertainment feel to the magazine that’s richer and more visually robust, and that’s what the ad community is particularly focused on. They’re thrilled.
Further, he says the redesign is attracting new advertisers, including Sony, RadioShack, Audiovox, Unilever and others.
Crystal says he’s heard the most positive feedback about the front-of-the-book What to Watch section, which lays out 21 must-sees for the week, and the behind-the-scenes photos of popular TV shows.
Crystal also thinks the changes will draw readers, and indeed things look encouraging. Newsstand sales are up for the redesigned TV Guide, rising 38 percent for the 11 issues published in 2005 versus the old pocket-sized format, according to a recent release by the magazine.
Yet media buyers Media Life talked to are unimpressed. They don’t think the magazine’s redesign comes anywhere near solving the title’s problems.
They’ve got to create a buzz. They’ve got to get people saying, ˜Did you see TV Guide? They did a great job,’ says Richard Klein, executive vice president of SLG Advertising in Greenwich, Conn. We’re a follow-the-leader industry, like a lot of industries, and they’ve got to get some buzz to get the right advertisers.
They did a great job at the beginning and created some buzz. They got some significant buzz, but that didn’t last very long, says Carmen Graf, senior vice president and group media director with GSD&M in Austin.
They used to own a piece of the market. They did something very different than anyone else did. Now the way they’re going they’re moving into a cluttered space.
Several media buyers told Media Life they hadn’t even bothered to pick up a copy of the redesigned magazine.
Yet others argue that in redesigning its look, TV Guide should have overhauled its attitude.
Maybe they need to mix it up and be more critical and more realistic in terms of what’s happening in celebrity lives, says Alan Jurmain, media director at Avrett Free Ginsberg in New York. Inherent in that is a bit more drama, and more drama in that category means greater interest and attentiveness.
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