Green Fades to Black

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The current recession has impacted a lot of industries including the print media.  Several magazines which had green-themed issues in '08 are planning on retiring those issues during 2009 as a result of their previous sales and what many see as "green's" growing ubiquity.

Posted Dec. 15, 2008
By Lucia Moses, Adweek

Two years ago, spurred on by a groundswell of
interest in all things eco-friendly, green-related content was
sprouting everywhere. For magazines, that meant a flurry of
green-themed issues. But the economic downturn, coupled with
cooling consumer interest, have some publishers pulling the plug on
those products.

Among titles holding off on green issues in ’09 are Conde Nast’s
Domino, Time Inc.’s Sunset, Mariah Media’s
Outside and independent title Discover. Active
Interest Media’s Backpacker, already seeing the concept as
tired, did not produce a second global-warming issue this year. “My
sense is the idea of doing a green issue has been done so much it
feels anachronistic,” said Backpacker editor Jonathan
Dorn.

It didn’t help that newsstand sales weren’t so hot for some green
issues. Backpacker’s global-warming special sold 44,038 on
stands versus its average of 50,227. Discover’s green issue
this past May sold 93,000 newsstand copies, versus its 115,767
average. Domino’s 2008 and 2007 green issues sold below
average, even though vp, publisher Beth Brenner pointed out that
March is not a strong month for single-copy sales.

Not all green issues bombed. Outside sold above average on
stands, while this year’s special from Conde Nast’s Vanity
Fair
, featuring cover subject Madonna, sold 370,000 copies at
stands, only slightly below average.

Editors insist readers are still interested in green themes,
although some said they are evolving coverage in response to
green’s maturation. Hachette Filipacchi Media’s Elle
which made a statement by publishing its green issue on recycled
paper this year — plans a water-themed issue in ’09, reminiscent
of the blue issue of Rodale’s Women’s Health in 2007.

VF editor Graydon Carter said, via e-mail, that while he may
not devote his entire May issue to the environmental theme next
year, he plans more eco-oriented coverage overall — “especially
now that we have an incoming administration that is sensitive to
the environment, knows what it means to be green and takes the
science, and the science of global warming, seriously.”

National Geographic folded its quarterly Green Guide,
a consumer-service publication it bought in 2007. But Claudia
Malley, vp and U.S. publisher of Nat Geo, said the declining
ad market, rather than waning consumer interest, was to blame,
noting that newsstand sales for the first two issues were in the
70,000-80,000 range. Malley said a special newsstand issue is
planned for next September.

Ending their green issues could serve a PR purpose for magazines,
given that the very practice of publishing on paper is seen as at
odds with protecting the environment. Still, some maintain that
while tips for sustainable living are well-worn, readers continue
to want targeted green content.

Discover CEO Henry Donahue said the magazine’s October
issue, which focused on alternative energy, sold above average,
which, he believes, reflects a hunger for more targeted
information. “Our readers can get that broader content in other
places,” he said.
“There’s still a healthy amount of advertising demand for that,
particularly on the corporate branding side, but [we’re] struggling
to find what works editorially for these issues.”

Some publishers report that marketers have not abandoned green
messaging, to the extent they’re still advertising at all.

The Domino Bazaar, an annual shopping event put on by the magazine,
boasted eco-friendly messages this year. And in 2009, the event,
which will be rebranded Domino District, will carry an even more
prominent environmental message, featuring a green show house.
Presenting sponsor Benjamin Moore will use the platform to promote
its eco-friendly paints.

However, Brenner said advertisers don’t feel they need a
green-themed issue to make an Earth-friendly case, explaining,
“They’ve made it a part of their everyday messaging.”

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