Business Monday

Lifestyle magazines in South Florida: glossy, glamorous and growing

Jared Shapiro, editor-in-chief, and Courtland Lantaff, publisher of Ocean Drive, at their office on Miami Beach on Feb. 18, 2015.
Jared Shapiro, editor-in-chief, and Courtland Lantaff, publisher of Ocean Drive, at their office on Miami Beach on Feb. 18, 2015. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Jeff Dinetz pulls up to a high-end furniture store in Weston with his glossy magazine in hand. During the hour that follows, he will try to convince the marketing director that he has more to offer her than just an advertising page. “I’m going to talk about editorial opportunities, social media opportunities. I’m about trying to get my clients results and making them more a part of the fabric of the magazine than just an ad.”

The next stop for the former manager of a radio station conglomerate will be a pitch to a car dealership, and from there he will meet with a real estate agent. While Dinetz hadn’t pictured himself as the door to door type, he travels most days from Doral to Weston — sometimes even up to Boca Raton or down to Miami Beach — schmoozing with politicians, business owners and marketing directors to promote his magazine and sell its pages to advertisers.

”I am able to take everything I learned in broadcasting and parlay it into print and I’m loving it,” Dinetz insisted. But while he may be having fun, Dinetz knows, as a relatively newcomer, he can’t let up if he wants his magazine to gain traction.

Staking a niche and securing the right readers has become critical in a South Florida where local magazines are flooding mailboxes, office lobbies and restaurants. At a time when print is supposed to be dying, glossy lifestyle magazines are sprouting up all over South Florida, targeting readers with $150,000-plus household income — money to spend on luxury condos, vacation homes, designer clothes and premium liquor. New names like Avenue on the Beach, Jewish Way, Venice, Pinecrest, Indulge and Executive South Florida have joined the longer-established glossies such as Key Biscayne and Modern Luxury Miami.

In the past three years, at least a dozen new magazines have entered the South Florida market. At the same time about a half dozen longer established magazines have increased circulation, pushing further with more copies into broader distribution areas in South Florida and even outside the state.

With covers that scream glamour, these publications are as small as 80 pages or as large as 400 pages and target a segment of the population such as the executive, a geographic region such as Key Biscayne, or a lifestyle such as the affluent traveler or social party-goer. Most are printed on high quality paper, making them expensive to produce and appealing to peruse.

Some believe the real estate boom is fueling the surge in magazines. “I think you can track it to condominium advertising budgets,” said Eddie Dominguez, director of marketing at City National Bank and a former newspaper and magazine editor. “If you pick them up, they are filled predominantly with ads by condo developers.”

Others attribute the magazine explosion to the resurgence of international visitors, the emergence of the arts and culture scene, and the flood of high end luxury goods in the local marketplace. Regardless of why, these glossy publications are brimming with advertisements and entering a marketplace where existing magazines are increasing their print distribution.

“South Florida is an anomaly,” said Michelle Zubizarreta, chief administrative officer of Zubi Advertising. “The phenomenon of glossy magazines in South Florida is sort of indicative of what South Florida is about or the perception that we’re glossy, sexy and that there’s an affluent market here.”

Nationally, magazine readership has been on a decline, revenue has been flat and industry analysts expect it to stay that way. Some of the titles that formerly graced magazine racks have gone solely to a digital format or closed altogether. Although the number of magazine launches held steady in 2014, the outlook for print media still took a turn for the worse as closures nearly doubled, according to MediaFinder, an online database for U.S. and Canadian publications. Among the shuttered publications are USA Weekend, Macworld and WWE Magazine. “There’s a clear national trend away from print,” said Chris Lederer, a partner in PwC’s Entertainment, Media & Communications practice.

Not in South Florida.

It has been 15 months since Dinetz entered the Weston market where Lifestyle Media Group already had been publishing Weston Lifestyle. Despite the competition, he saw opportunity: “I thought there was room for a magazine for the people in the Weston area and advertisers who want to reach them.” Because the area has a large Hispanic population, Dinetz saw the demographics as an advantage: “Upscale Latins love magazines.”

He has blanketed the area by delivering his inWeston Magazine to 15,000 homes in Weston and surrounding suburbs and circulating another 15,000 to doctors’ offices, restaurants, car dealerships, hotels and other businesses stretching from the Weston area as far south as Doral. “If I put inWeston on the magazine cover, I have to be serving the people of Weston. I want our readers to open the magazine and see people in their community or read about the restaurant down the street,” he said. “That’s what distinguishes us from the competition.”

Dinetz, like other publishers, acknowledges that competition is intense for advertisers and believes content will determine which magazines survive. The goal in the magazine game is to lure the eyeballs of readers, the ones who have money to spend. “We have to deliver results and the only way we can do that is if people are reading our magazine,” Dinetz said. He props up print readership with a website and active social media accounts, including Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

To lure readers, publications take varied approaches. Lifestyle Media Group publishes in multiple cities in the tri-county area — Las Olas Lifestyle, Weston Lifestyle, Coral Gables Lifestyle, Boca Lifestyle — and shares some features among magazines. Modern Luxury publishes in assorted cities throughout the United States, including Aspen, Chicago and Los Angeles in addition to its Miami magazine. Some of the content is shared, such as travel pieces or features on second homes. And locals, like Aventura Magazine, publish in their small area with content customized specifically for local readership. Yet, basically they are all lovely magazines for upscale readers chock-full of high-end advertising. The fashion photography, celebrity covers and printing quality have raised the game in a once-sleepy segment of the publishing world.

Mail or deliver free

Most publishers use the same formula for distribution: mail or deliver (or both) free of charge to high-income households and businesses in affluent neighborhoods. Their challenge in this distribution method is guaranteeing their magazines will be read.

“They’re all going after a very attractive reader base,” Lederer said. “Their challenge is how to stand out.”

In South Florida, publications are expanding their distribution, rolling out new titles and forging into suburbs where they see opportunity — and disposable income. Lederer predicts that the survivors will successfully extend their reach beyond their glossy publications to a multiplatform approach that includes print and digital — specifically, a website and the ability to be read on mobile devices.

If there’s one person who understands how the economy affects magazines, it is Jen Ford, co-founder of Blue Daisy Media, a Miami media buying agency whose clients include real estate developers, upscale retirement homes, hotels, and Pérez Art Museum Miami and the Miami International Film Festival.

Ford said she has experienced the surge in pitches to buy print ads on behalf of her clients: “Reps know me and the way I work. I try to be fair but we can’t be everywhere.” When choosing whether to advertise in magazines with similar readers, Ford said she considers cost per thousand and whether they are audited.

Ford said she often finds herself convincing clients outside the area that South Florida is a unique market — and that advertising in lifestyle magazines puts them in front of potential homebuyers who visit from other cities and countries.

Isabella Sanchez, vice president of media integration with Zubi Advertising in Coral Gables, makes advertising buys for national companies such as The Lincoln Motor Co. and American Airlines. She has found it almost impossible to purchase ads in the South Florida magazines because their circulation numbers aren’t audited, a requirement of national advertisers: “It’s the only way I can assure our ad will get seen.”

For local advertisers, the medium is ideal. Real estate agent Eric Solomon of Solomon Homes has taken a double-page spread in the Weston Lifestyle magazine showcasing his listings in the area. “There’s a need for small businesses to get their message out there, and these publications target the audience we need,” Solomon said. The competition allows him to get better prices, but at the same time, he must figure out his budget and which magazine is worth his ad dollars: “They try to differentiate themselves depending on your product and target audience. They try to say, ‘we’re better at this or that’ and you have to figure which is best for your business.”

As the many titles compete, the publishers must prove even to local advertisers that their beautifully designed advertisements will be seen. “They have no idea if people are throwing away the magazine or reading it,” Dominguez said. And with no proof of readership numbers, advertisers want better deals.

But it’s those deals that could sink a publication — from a monetary and credibility standpoint.

Amy Zakarin, president and owner of Zakarin Martinez PR, said sales representatives target category leaders, realizing that once a particular jewelry, or real estate developer or furniture designer agrees to advertise, its competitors will follow. To lure advertisers, some publishers agree to a “pay to play” arrangement, in which editorial coverage is promised in return for a paid advertisement. Florida Trend, City & Shore and Indulge are among the few that do not link advertising to magazine content in any way.

Nearly all magazines offer opportunities for working together beyond print. Zakarin, whose firm oversees marketing and public relations for major advertisers like The Related Group and Artefacto, said “value-added” offers often includes participation in an event, inclusion in an editorial feature or social media mentions. As the deals get sweeter, the advertiser must decide the real value of what’s being offered, Zakarin said. “It’s not about pay-to-play anymore. It’s about forming an authentic partnership where the business objectives of both partners are understood and supported,” she said. “That’s what separates the magazines. They’re not just selling a page, they are selling a greater value.”

That value comes from themed issues, tie-ins with South Florida events, issue “launch” parties, and events like sponsored panel discussions. Blue Daisy’s Ford said she will ask for event sponsorships, inclusion in an e-blast, online website banners, advertorials, or a snippet in a real estate roundup. “I’m looking to stretch my clients dollars as much as possible,” she said. With her bigger clients, “some newer publications will give us free ads. I will do that if it helps my client.”

Dominguez, of City National Bank, said, “The key is to maintain relevancy and not completely become a pay-to-play because that does not attract readership. ... People don’t want to read puffery or self-serving editorial. With magazines, to some degree, that’s inevitable. The challenge is to keep that mix to the point where it isn’t so transparent and people don’t just toss the magazine.”

If there’s a grandfather in the marketplace who seemingly has mastered the right formula, it’s Ocean Drive Magazine, a fashion and lifestyle publication that grew along with the hip population and resurgence of South Beach. Rather than classifying itself as a magazine, publisher Courtland Lantaff thinks of Ocean Drive as more of a coffee table book that people tend to keep around.

Twenty-two years ago, founder Jerry Powers launched Ocean Drive Magazine, carefully branding it with a flavor and look that was distinctly Miami. Under Powers, the magazine followed a simple formula: Glorify celebrities and local luminaries, and make it a must-read for chic locals and international visitors. After 15 years, Powers sold Ocean Drive to Niche Media, which owns a string of city magazines. During the recession, Niche scaled back on staff and shuttered Ocean Drive En Español.

Now, Niche Media, recently sold to Nevada-based Greengale Publishing, is back in the expansion mode. Based in New York, Niche publishes 11 high-end regional titles such as Aspen Peak, Ocean Drive, Hamptons and the newly launched Austin Way. Niche’s custom publishing clients include Art Basel, Wynn, Maison & Objet Miami Beach and The Mall at Short Hills.

Ocean Drive Magazine, which touts “sizzling content that is always ahead of the curve,” now circulates well beyond South Beach, where it first gained appeal. Lantaff says the magazine plumped its distribution by 10 percent in 2014, pushing copies and coverage into Brickell, Miami’s Design District, and even north into Hollywood and Fort Lauderdale. It now distributes 55,000 copies with 10 issues a year.

Being owned by a bigger company allows for efficiencies on the business side. But, Lantaff emphasizes, “We do not share content. We live and die by what we put out there. Our success begins and ends with our editorial content.” Despite new competition, Lantaff said Ocean Drive has had double-digit growth in revenue over the past five years and is the largest and most profitable of the Niche publications.

Lantaff considers Ocean Drive more than a magazine, noting that it has an active website and more than 100,000 social media followers, “more than any other regional lifestyle publication.” In pitching to advertisers, sales representatives are finding the digital component increasingly important: “It’s another way to push out content and work with our partners across all platforms. Future growth in revenue will come from partnerships with advertisers, he said. “We have learned a lot over 22 years. We did deals 15 years ago that we don’t need to do now. Today we work with partners who have the same investment in Miami and want to see it grow.”

This month, Ocean Drive announced it will publish two new custom magazines: Beginning in May, it will create an in-room magazine for the Baha Mar resort, the multibillion-dollar destination opening along Cable Beach in the Bahamas, and a magazine for the upcoming Maison & Objet Miami Beach design show coming to the Miami Beach Convention Center this May. Ocean Drive also renewed a three-year contract with Art Basel Miami Beach to publish the art fair’s official upscale magazine. Lantaff also noted that Ocean Drive has licensee deals to publish editions of Ocean Drive in Panama, Puerto Rico and Venezuela, and it has a collaboration with Newslink on a Miami International Airport retail shop called the Shoppes of Ocean Drive.

Much like Ocean Drive, Selecta Magazine, a 32-year-old Spanish-language lifestyle magazine published in Miami, has jumped into custom publishing, too — another outlet to boost revenues. Selecta has stretched its reach to print 50,000 copies, circulating in the local Hispanic community as well as the New York and Los Angeles airports. More recently, it began publishing Casa Life, a magazine for the Casa de Campo, a Dominican Republic luxury resort.

Also in the custom-publishing space is HCP/Aboard, a division of the Miami Herald Media Company, which produces custom magazines for businesses including Baptist Health South Florida and Marriott and organizations including the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau. The company currently is pursuing seven proposals for new magazines, said president and publisher Erin Zilis. “That’s the most activity we’ve seen in years.”

Outside both these widespread niches are a handful of trade and specialty magazines. Recommend is aimed at the travel agent community; sister publication; Prevue serves meeting planners. Both are published by Miami Lakes-based Worth International, which creates custom-published magazines. Miami Beach-based Porthole Cruise Magazine publishes bi-monthly with content aimed at cruisers.

Lifestyle Media Group

Ocean Drive Magazine may be the longest established of the local lifestyle glossies, but Lifestyle Media Group has the largest reach in South Florida with customized editions of its magazines in 11 cities within Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. In 2011, a new ownership group comprised of Gary Press and serial entrepreneur Howard Dvorkin bought the media company founded by Jim Norton in 2003. At the time of the sale, Lifestyle was producing six magazines.

The new owners hired writers, a new creative director, more sales people, and invested in new technology for its sales team. Bullish on the magazine market in South Florida, Press added four new publications, including Pinecrest and Boca. “Our best communities to launch publications are ones where we can saturate that community,” Press said. “With Pinecrest we hit every apartment and home in Pinecrest and surrounding ZIP codes.”

Beyond lifestyle publications, Press saw opportunity to target the local executive with a combination business/lifestyle publication. With veteran South Florida business editor Kevin Gale at the helm, Lifestyle Media Group launched South Florida Business and Wealth. Press distributes the magazines at no charge to a target group of professionals in Miami-Dade and Broward counties: “We have a very powerful circulation list.” Meanwhile, the concept of a local magazine aimed at the executive turned out to be of interest to another player in the market. Ron Mann, a principal of the previous South Florida CEO, introduced EXECUTIVE South Florida in March 2014, an independent publication with a circulation of 15,000 aimed at high-income business leaders.

Press, one-time publisher of the South Florida Business Journal, said competition is inevitable: “Right now, money is coming into our market from all over the world. At some point we will have an economic change, and that’s when you flush out the companies that are here for the good times.” Yet, he believes there are enough local businesses who want to advertise for numerous magazines to thrive: “When you look at what we are doing and our competitors, all of us are finding new advertisers every single month.”

Press said his plans are to continue to add geographic areas to his magazine group: “We are looking at acquiring or starting a publication in Northeast Broward County.”

Looking for new revenue sources, South Florida newspapers have forged into high-end lifestyle glossies too. The Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel offers City & Shore, a themed lifestyle magazine with a circulation of 45,000, which it published 10 times a year. City & Shore is distributed at no cost to Sun Sentinel subscribers in high-end housing communities and to high-income non-Sun Sentinel subscribers. The Miami Herald has jumped into the fray, too. In March 2013, it began publishing Indulge, an oversized glossy aimed at the affluent reader. It distributes 85,000 copies through its newspapers, with a larger edition for Art Basel distributed at Art Basel Miami Beach and Art Miami.

Although the bigger publishers have power in numbers, that hasn’t prevented independents from securing market share, too. Alexander Avila, co-founder of Key Biscayne and Brickell magazines, said his glossies have found their niche. Ten years ago, Avila and business partner Jorge Arauz saw opportunity in Key Biscayne for a magazine that could attract advertisers who wanted to reach the island’s population, which boasts a median household income of $115,000. By slowly expanding circulation and highlighting the players on the island, Key Biscayne Magazine has been consistently profitable, Avila said.

Eventually, Avila saw opportunity for a Brickell magazine. At the time he and Arauz began plans for their second magazine, the area was robust with cranes busily adding office and condo towers. But when the Brickell Magazine launched in March 2008, the recession had hit hard and most cranes had come to a halt. Still, Avila said, he and Arauz were determined to repeat their success. They delivered their magazine to Brickell’s office buildings and the workforce who ate lunch in the area, shopped at downtown jewelers and considered buying a condo nearby.

As the economy rebounded, Avila began pushing coverage and distribution into surrounding areas: The magazine’s circulation of 30,000 now includes readers — and advertisers — in Coral Gables, Coconut Grove, Miami Beach and Midtown Miami. Avila sees opportunity for cautious expansion of circulation into Aventura and north.

The stretch into new areas requires some editorial refocus and creative distribution, he said: Advertisers can — and are — getting pickier. Still, to him, the future looks even more promising: “In downtown Miami, there is a lot planned. So much will be changing in the next five years. When you read the facts on the people who want to come to Miami and the businesses that want to go after them, you can’t help but say ‘wow.’”

About a year ago, another media firm also saw South Florida as ripe for a new magazine. Whitehaus Media Group, based in Miami Beach with national publications such as Cultured and Ultratravel, dove into the Fort Lauderdale market with a luxury lifestyle magazine called Venice (named for Venice of America).

“We felt that the makeup and population of Fort Lauderdale was changing and ready for a sophisticated read,” said Sarah Harrelson, founder and editorial director for Whitehaus Media Group. After a year, she considers the magazine successful: “We have grown every issue in terms of pages and ad dollars.”

Although Lifestyle also has a magazine in the area, Las Olas Lifestyle, Harrelson said her publication targets a higher-income audience and is buoyed by her partner, Carlos Suarez, who lives in the area and has strong business ties. “In magazine publishing, it’s easy to identify areas of growth, but unless there is a relationship with the demographic, we wouldn’t enter the market,” she said. “Magazines definitely are relationship-driven.”

The allure of opportunity is behind another interesting dynamic: Real estate businesses have begun producing their own lifestyle magazines. One advertiser, One Sotheby’s International Realty, which specializes in luxury properties in Miami-Dade, has launched its own magazine called One Life. CEO Mayi de la Vega, says she puts out 30,000 copies twice a year, placing the magazines in creative locations such as limos, private airports and inserted into the Wall Street Journal. One Life pages feature South Florida’s unique happenings and cultural achievements as well as profiles of international trendsetters and their passions.

“It’s a way to connect our buyers and sellers on a different level,” she said. explained. “At the end of the day, you need to differentiate yourself. There are lot of real estate companies out there, we are first with this type of magazine.” For de la Vega, who has published three issues, it is an expensive endeavor. She sells some advertising to supplement her costs. “It’s not a money maker, nor do we want it to be. Our intention is to increase the awareness of our brand.”

Miami’s Douglas Elliman also puts out a quarterly magazine, which it circulates at downtown office buildings and through its real estate agents. Although the magazine features mostly listings, it also has features on local places to eat or shop.

Some South Florida communities are publishing their own magazines as well. The small but upscale Fisher Island, where the median home value is $3.3 million, has a lifestyle magazine for its club members and distributes 5,000 copies quarterly. Ocean Reef in the Florida Keys now also publishes a magazine for its club members called Ocean Reef Club Living.

Nationally, the top categories for new magazines launches in 2014 were regional, health, food, home and children. In South Florida, publishers forged into some of those categories. At the same time, magazine groups based outside the area such as DuJour and Avenue began circulating South Florida editions.

In niche magazines, a new South Florida entry launches in April, a lifestyle glossy for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. The magazine, called Palette, will be published by the Miami Herald’s HCP/Aboard and delivered four times a year to businesses and residents in four South Florida counties. Palette will start off with 40,000 copies delivered within targeted ZIP codes, said Zilis, the publisher. “We tried to look for a niche audience that was not being served,” she said.

With their colorful pages and photos from social events, Zilis finds magazines continue to be a choice way to communicate: “Even in the digital era, people love to read magazines.” Zilis said there are a lot of players in the game right now, gambling on expensively produced magazines and trying to figure out what works: “What they are going to learn is that it comes back to quality content and distribution. Some will not survive.”

Dominguez said telltale signs of magazines on the verge of collapse include erratic publishing schedules, fluctuating page counts and overeagerness to discount ad rates. For now, it may be early in the cycle, he said: “I think we are going to see a correlation with the economy. Where the economy goes, so will the magazine business.”

A South Florida presence

Here are some of the publication groups, and publications, that are in the region:

Publication groups

▪ Whitehaus Media Group (WMG) headquartered in Miami Beach. Publishes Ultratravel US, Bal Harbour Magazine, Cultured Magazine and Venice.

▪ Lifestyle Media Group, headquartered in Fort Lauderdale. Publishes 12 local magazines, including Las Olas, Weston, Estate, Parkland, Coral Springs, Boca, Pinecrest, Coral Gables, Estero. In addition it publishes Parkland/Coral Spring Life and Coconut Creek Life magazines and South Florida Business & Wealth (SFBW).

▪ Niche Media, headquartered in New York. Publishes 11 city magazines throughout the U.S., including Aspenpeak, Austin Way, Boston Common, Capitol File, Gotham, Hamptons, Los Angeles Confidential, Michigan Avenue, Ocean Drive, Philadelphia Style, Vegas. Also produces custom publications including Art Basel Miami Beach, Maison & Objet Americas, the Mall at Short Hills and Wynn.

▪ Modern Luxury, headquartered in Atlanta. Publishes 17 city lifestyle magazines, seven bridal magazines, 11 charity and social datebooks and four home design magazines. In South Florida, Modern Luxury publishes Modern Luxury Miami, Modern Luxury Brides South Florida and Modern Luxury Interiors South Florida.

▪ Avenue Magazine, headquartered in New York. New York’s Avenue Magazine also publishes Avenue on the Beach (Miami).

▪ DuJour, headquartered in New York City. Publishes Aspen, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Tri-state, Orange County, Palm Beach, San Francisco. (CEO Jason Binn, co-founded Ocean Drive Magazine in 1992 with Jerry Powers)

Local segmented lifestyle magazines

▪ Jewish Way (JW), produced by YNC Media in Hallandale Beach.

▪ Alma Miami, published bimonthly in Spanish by Alma Magazine Corp. in Miami.

▪ edible South Florida, published quarterly by Edible South Florida in Coral Gables.

▪ The Real Deal South Florida, published by Korangy Publishing in New York.

Design magazines

▪ Florida Design’s Miami Home & Decor.

▪ Tropic Florida Living & Design published by Tropic Magazine Inc. in Fort Lauderdale.

▪ Luxe interiors + design, published by Sandow, headquartered in Boca Raton.

Travel magazines

▪ Florida Travel & Life, published by Bonnier Corp. in New York.

▪ Porthole Cruise Magazine, published by PPI Group in Fort Lauderdale.

Newspaper-produced magazines

▪ The Miami Herald: Indulge, Palette.

▪ Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel: City & Shore.

South Florida independents

▪ inWeston, published by LAREL Media, Weston

▪ Key Biscayne and Brickell, published by TAG Media, Miami

▪ Think Magazine, published by TW Publications, Weston

▪ Aventura Magazine, published by SternBloom Media in Hallandale Beach.

Advertiser-produced

▪ One Life, The Magazine of One Sotheby’s International Realty.

Areas in South Florida with magazines

Fisher Island, Ocean Reef, Key Biscayne, Ocean Drive, Brickell, Coral Gables, Pinecrest, Weston, Las Olas, Miami, Brickell, Venice, Parkland/Coral Springs, Davie/Southwest Ranches/Plantation, Estero, Boca, Aventura

Business magazines

▪ Executive South Florida Magazine, published nine times a year by South Florida Executive LLC — Ron Mann

▪ South Florida Business & Wealth, published by Lifestyle Media Group, Fort Lauderdale

▪ Florida Trend, published by Trend Magazines, St. Petersburg

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