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USA Today Does Custom Publishing

March 11, 2008

Open AirLast Friday I purchased a USA Today from one of those glass dispensers–an abnormal behavior since I usually reserve reading USA Today to the hotels that give them to me free. But I digress already.

As I was walking into the restaurant, out of the paper fell more paper. Thinking I’d dropped part of the newspaper itself or some coupons had fallen out, I began cursing the darkness.But alas, what had fallen from the groundwood to the asphalt jungle floor was a much more pleasant thing–a magazine. A real magazine. Not a thick one to be sure, but a full-sized, 64-page, four-color, glossy mag! And it wasn’t about fashion or celebrities–THANK GOD–the topics I was expecting when I realized it was a magazine. Seems like everyone is on these tedious pop culture bandwagons these days.

Instead, this USA Today spewed a magazine called Open Air and tagged “Be Active. Live Well.” Looking a lot like a co-ed Men’s Journal, the editor, Jack Curry, explains that Open Air will present “a new outlook on living life to the fullest….[featuring] top travel and recreation experts, leading health and fitness gurus, exciting destinations and ordinary people who find the extraordinary in everyday circumstances.”

I’m not sure about “new” outlook, but they do deliver on what they otherwise set out torock.jpg do. Topics have effective, overlapping contexts: golf article includes golf-related exercise, a family of tri-athletes are motivated by the death of a brother/son, several articles focus on the outdoors–hiking, exploring, and the like–where photography intended to motivate us to get out there works well. As a new runner who struggles with plantar fasciitis, I was particularly thrilled to see a review of insoles. It’s a very readable mag that deals with topics about living more healthy, environmentally sound, adventurous lives.So let’s review:

  1. This “magazine” is an excellent example of custom publishing. Apparently, Open Air is not going to newsstands to be sold–though it’s worthy–but you can get it in USA Today in upcoming issues.
  2. I didn’t pay anything extra for Open Air. The $.75 that bought the paper was all I needed. It probably would have brought more than 5 bucks on the newsstand. I got it for free. No contest. No buy-one-get-ones.
  3. It represents the publisher well.
  4. Those of us who read it and get engaged are helped and encouraged.

Open Air is a breath of fresh air in the world of newspapers. Bring it on. If it were in hard cover, I would never dispose of it. CV Score: 10Out There

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Alex permalink
    March 12, 2008 11:30 am

    I was pleasantly surprised to find this magazine in the Friday paper I bought. Nice to see that they didn’t put a fake “value” on the cover to boldly hint to customers they are getting a good deal within the regular .75 cent price. The stories and information (gratefully) substantially outweighted pages and pages of ads – which made it even more enjoyable. This isn’t a 5 minute flip-through-and-toss and I’m actually now considering adding a location featured to my upcoming vacation. Relevant, interesting and free – now that’s the right formula.

  2. March 12, 2008 8:34 pm

    Hi Alex…thanks for pointing this out. Actually, OpenAir would be considered more a “supplement” and not custom publishing. To be considered custom publishing, it would be more of a marketing piece sponsored by one or a group of companies. It looks as though this is just another product from USA Today (kind of like NYTimes magazine). Hope that helps.

  3. March 12, 2008 8:35 pm

    Sorry…meant David.

  4. davidpleach permalink
    March 18, 2008 7:05 am

    Thanks for the correction, Joe. Coming from the CPC itself, I’ll take it to heart! But isn’t the discipline and rationale between this kind of “supplement” and more traditional marketing pieces you describe pretty much the same. If I as a salesman helped three companies form a partnership to develop a magazine that served their interests, couldn’t the final product be called “custom publishing”? Not meaning to split hairs, just obviously very interested. (And as a custom publisher from the book world who typically gets left out of traditional “custom publishing” definitions, I’m always looking for the “right” description of what I do for a living.)


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