Growing Pains: The Promise and Pitfalls of Cross-border Publishing

When launching a magazine internationally, there are a lot of factors to consider in predicting how it will fare. Competition, market demand, and distribution challenges are just some of the concerns a publisher must address. Increasingly, a magazine’s digital presence is almost as important as its print presence, which presents a whole new set of problems to assess and manage.

One of the main challenges in expanding a magazine into foreign countries is maintaining the integrity of the brand, says Time Inc.’s international director for Europe, Middle East, and Africa, Jennifer Savage. One safe-guard she refers to is Time Inc.’s policy of preserving the name of the magazine across international markets to reinforce and strengthen the brand.

Head of the international magazine division Arnoldo Mondadori Editore Spa, Fabrizio D’Angelo admits that he only recently – and reluctantly – accepted the necessity for intensive branding, but maintains that more important than keeping the name of a publication is keeping the editorial quality high. “There are no sacred cows in this business,” he says, emphasizing the need to be agile in adapting international publications to local markets. “If that means changing the name of a magazine to fit different markets, I’m not opposed at all.”

Fabrizio D’Angelo offers this piece of wisdom: “Think big, but be prepared to operate small. Many times, the market in which you are launching is not yet fully developed and it takes the introduction of your product to aid it into maturity. It is also frequently the case that your partners have a different scale in mind than you do, so it is important to settle these aspects of production before the pen is put to paper.”

Brasil-based Editora Europa’s president Aydano Roriz says that in order to successfully execute a panregional operation, you need three things: talent, luck, and hard work. Mr. Roriz also cites piracy as a major concern in Latin America, where the practice is much more widespread than in the U.S. “I think it must be an industry priority to rid ourselves of this problem. It simply is not fair for companies who follow all the rules, who pay their employees decent wages, to be undercut by these media pirates.”

Another issue is delivering content that is both brand-relevant and locally relevant. “The key to this challenge,” Ms. Savage asserts, “is addressing it at the outset when choosing a publisher with whom to partner, and making sure that publisher understands the brand and how it jibes with the market in which they plan to launch.”

Then, of course, there is the digital aspect of publishing and panregional expansion. One problematic issue in this realm, according to Ms. Savage, is that due to the rapid technological changes that occur in the online arena, it is difficult to offer a model to a publisher that is sure to work in their market, whose users might not have the latest equipment, or who might use the internet in a different way from users in the magazine’s home country.

One low-risk approach to launching a magazine panregionally is to do so in a digital format. Arnoldo Mondadori Editore Spa’s Fabrizio D’Angelo thinks that it is a good idea, and one that can be undertaken without a large capital investment. Time Inc.’s Jennifer Savage says it is something that the company is currently considering – launching a magazine digitally to determine its viability, and then spinning-off a print edition if it looks like one could succeed.

Editora Europa’s Aydano Roriz is a bit more cautious in his assessment, saying that, while many see the future of magazines manifesting itself online, print will always be the preferred method of delivery for readers, due precisely to the greater cost of production and the high-quality content that results from that greater cost. “Sure you can get content for free or for almost free on the internet, but quality content is hard to find, and people will continue to purchase magazines in order to find it,” says Roriz.

Megazines’ Miguel Sanchez sees lots of potential for Mexican publishers here in the U.S. “Mexican publishers are salivating at the chance to come here,” he says. “They see this big market opening up and are thinking about how best to enter it.” He cites the newly-launched men’s magazine Sin, a joint venture by Mexico’s Grupo Psinapsis and Hong Kong publisher Monolith. “The paradigm that they are adopting, which seems to be one that other Mexican publishers are looking at, is launching in Mexico, and then expanding into the U.S. to build enough capital and brand recognition to make a move on Latin America,” explains Sanchez.