RADIO (Magazine) Dials Down

RYBAK: Word trickling out of Kenan Aksoz’s Metropolitan Media Group in Bloomington is that its newly launched RADIO magazine has encountered some static after just two issues. Kenan told me Tuesday that RADIO, which is jointly owned by Metropolitan and the radio marketing group Marketing Architects, “will be put on hold while we assess the model.”

Kenan acknowledged that, at 100,000 copies per issue, RADIO was an ambitious launch. “The initial feedback from readers and distributors was better than expected.” However, “the advertising was a little slower to come by.” He said it wasn’t unusual to “have an initial launch, then put it on hold for a few months to re-evaluate it and then come out with a regular schedule.”

LAMBERT: Metropolitan Media is the outfit that turns out Escape [Sun Country’s inflight magazine], Saint Paul, City South, and all those shiny suburban city magazines that come free in the mail, Edina, Woodbury, Eden Prairie, etc.. They’re all based on the notion that you and me and the celebrity-crazed housewife next door are eager for a peek at the lifestyles of famous media folk like, uh, Dan “The Common Man” Cole and — more specifically — any woman. preferably blonde, who has ever read off a TelePrompter in front of a live camera.

While I accept the apparently inexhaustible advertiser faith in the appeal of the lifestyle magazine format, when MMG announced a monthly built exclusively on Twin Cities radio personalities, our reaction I dare say was, “WTF?” It would be an understatement to say we had doubts about market enthusiasm for a magazine focused on such a narrow media niche.

RYBAK: I asked Kenan about that during our conversation and he readily agreed that the concept was unusual: “It’s the first of its kind.” He said the rationale was that there were only a handful of TV stations here and that they were already covered by local media. “But radio is barely covered by anybody.” Given that big TV dogs like Don Shelby have their own radio shows and that other big dogs like Jeff Passolt regularly appear on other radio shows, “they would show up in our magazine anyway.”

LAMBERT: Still, everyone knows that once you get past Tom Barnard, Jason Lewis, Dan Barreiro and a small handful of recognizable names, the celebrity impact quotient of local radio starts to slide pretty drastically. I mean, if you’re a life-style magazine the assumption you’re selling is that the celebrities featured in your magazine have lifestyles worth envying. But the reality is that most radio jocks are working for little more than your average SuperAmerica manager. No one is going to envy their Ikea kitchenette and classic ’97 Nissan.

That said, damn but I’d love to see the outtakes from a foo-foo lifestyle shoot at the homes of the Barreiros, or the Lewises or — my personal fantasy favorite — Joe and The Long Suffering Mrs. Soucheray. (“Joe! Joe! Joe, come up and say hello to the nice reporter!”) I’d pay for pics of the boys posing proudly in front of their new chintz drapes and overstuffed love seats.

RYBAK: Although Kenan said that a couple salespeople were let go, the fact that RADIO editor and former WCCO-TV reporter Bridgette Bornstein still has a job would indicate that there may be some broadcast life yet left in the mag. He said a final decision could come in a week, or take a month.

Certainly things aren’t hurting at Metropolitan, which currently publishes 20 magazines. Kenan told me that City South, which covers Southwest Minneapolis, has been so well-received that he’s bumping it from a quarterly to a monthly publication. Three other quarterlies–Burnsville, Chanhassen and St. Croix Valley–will also increase pub dates from quarterly to bi-monthly.

So, you can smirk all you want, Brian, but damn does that lifestyle concept sell. Just think, someday Kenan might even launch a mag called BLOG and feature glossy pics of all of us at home working in our pajamas….

LAMBERT: Hey, give ’em my number. If they’re nice I’ll strike a series of erotic poses in front of my Coleman grill and show off the couch with the dog drool down the arms.

But my point, and I had a conversation earlier this year with the Met Media bosses, is that I don’t get their active disinterest in anything newsworthy. As is, they have a magazine consciously avoiding information. My argument was that if they spread the concept out to all Twin Cities media, rolling in the hot-shot cool kids in advertising, publishing, TV and radio, plus their well-fed bosses and balanced out the dingbat “Ooo, look at the beautiful teak crown moldings” stuff with a little news about how these people operate their magazine might make a little bigger impact.

RYBAK: I acknowledge your point, but think the “non-newsworthy” label can be affixed to a lot more media outlets than Metropolitan. One local publisher was complaining recently that all it takes is one scintilla of un-Pollyanna like writing/reporting to scatter advertisers to competitors offering no newsworthy whatsoever, just print infotainment–interesting little nuggets that don’t hurt anybody. So, in the pursuit of the almighty advertising dollars, nobody’s doing newsworthy–let alone controversy–anymore.

That said, I absolutely agree that a magazine that covered a variety of local media, rather than just radio, would have seemed a smarter choice.