Long Island Business News, Nov 5, 2009 by Ambrose Clancy
Phil Rugile is trying to break a traditional publishing model so it won’t break him.
The maiden voyage of Cold Spring Harbor-based MYMAG, a print publication devoted to celebrities, can’t be found on newsstands and is not available via subscription. Want a copy? Go online and pony up $10 for the glossy print magazine.
Another break from the past? A single company buys the rights to all ads throughout an issue. Microsoft’s Bing and Diesel Jeans are on board as “single ad sponsorships” for the first three issues, all published simultaneously this week.
Also, Rugile and his partner, Marcus Greaves, are publishing magazines devoted totally to one celebrity, with the first three showcasing DJ and record producer Steve Aoki, model/actress Olivia Munn, and film/video director Brett Ratner. Hence the title – MYMAG.
Rather than launching a traditional marketing campaign to spread the word, MYMAG will rely on the celebrities own Twitter activity and their presence on Facebook and MySpace.
Those D-list denizens mentioned above ring no bells? Rugile is banking that enough people not only are familiar with them but also are willing to part with $10 to get a closer look.
“We’re taking trends in media and entertainment and how celebrities are trying to get closer and closer to their fans,” Rugile said. “We’re trying to capitalize on that connection and give the celebrities another channel to promote themselves in a purely viral way.”
Some warn that launching a print publication is like betting that the Titanic will beat the iceberg. Last year, 525 magazines went under and by February of this year another 40 titles sunk to the bottom, according to MediaFinder, an online database devoted to publications. Publishing legends such as “Gourmet” are history and other iconic glossies, including “PC Magazine” and “Playgirl,” are publishing online exclusively.
Marcus Greaves is all too familiar with collapsing print publications. In February his Doubledown Media closed shop along with it’s flagship magazine, “Trader Monthly,” a lifestyle publication aimed at wealthy Wall street types. But both partners maintain MYMAG’s new model is the key to success.
Rugile – a publishing lifer with stops at Time, Newsday and the Baltimore Sun among other places – said that private capital invested is approaching seven figures and that print runs will depend on the fans of the celebrity.
“We have a ‘secret sauce’ formula to determine how many copies to print based on how many fans someone has on their Facebook page and how many on their Twitter network,” Rugile said. “We’re intentionally keeping it small so we don’t have inventory sitting around.”
He estimated that print runs will be anywhere from 7,500 copies up to 50,000.
Kevin Kamen, chief executive of Baldwin-based Kamen & Company Group Services, which appraises publications and brokers sales, said the upside for MYMAG is that printing has become cheap during the recession.
“Printers will take anything they can get now because they’re starving,” Kamen said.
But Kamen doesn’t like the idea of any print launches in this market, no matter how innovative the strategy might be. “I’d advise against it,” he said.
The magazines are professionally laid out with sharp photographic spreads. Original content created by the celebrities are at the front of the publications followed by articles and images selected by them from publications including “Playboy,” “Interview” and “Rolling Stone.”
No money changes hands to get the big guns of publishing to come up with content. “We provide publishers with endorsement of their content, opening up new readership, bringing them into a unique environment where online and print intersect,” Rugile said.
The obscurity of the first three celebrities chosen to have their own magazine is in the eye of the beholder, Rugile said. Olivia Munn recently made an appearance on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.” “She was a killer,” Rugile said. “Owned the stage. She’ll be really big next year.”
As for DJ Steve Aoki and filmmaker Brett Ratner, they’re show biz insiders who have many followers, according to the publishers.
It’s hoped that Ratner, who directed the 2006 “X-Men: The Last Stand” and Mariah Carey videos will provide a springboard to future celebrities interested in having their own magazine.
“Brett brings validation to the concept,” Rugile said. “Along with Steve and Olivia, he’s not the A-list of household names, but it’s important that we present ourselves to the clients that we ultimately want to reach.”