Garden & Gun and the Secret Niche Sauce

UnknownEmbracing their niche, the magazine’s tight editorial focus is proving irresistible to advertisers; print ad pages are up 6% from 2014.

“When Charleston, S.C., attorney J. Edward Bell III invested in Garden & Gun magazine in February 2010, he knew the magazine had already lost nearly $10 million in less than three years,” writes Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg in The Wall Street Journal.

Yet he didn’t give in to the typical despair rocking the magazine world, choosing instead to look past the red ink and focus on the positive, in spite of the “dicey” economics of niche publications like Garden & Gun.

That positive focus is paying off.

“Garden & Gun sold 470 print ad pages in 2015, up 6% from a year earlier, compared with a 1.3% increase at Southern Living to 890 pages,” Trachtenberg explains. “Meanwhile, marketers spent $17.4 billion on print advertising in consumer magazines in 2015, down 4.5% compared to the prior year, according to research firm Kantar Media.”

Why has Garden & Gun succeeded where so many others have not? Trachtenberg explains: “[The magazine] remains tightly focused on food, drink, the land, travel, and the sporting life, including bird hunting and shotguns. Roughly 72% of subscribers live in the Southeast or Southwest.”

It’s a true lifestyle publication of the kind of south Southerners dream of. And their subscribers are an advertiser’s dream too.

“Garden & Gun has the lush feel of an upscale magazine and the affluent readership to match. Subscribers have an average household income of $332,000, compared with $66,000 for Time Inc.’s Southern Living and $294,000 for Hearst Corp.’s Town & Country,” Trachtenberg continues.

“They position themselves as a national lifestyle publication with a fanatical readership,” says Leslie Tucker of the Dallas-based ad agency The Richards Group Inc. She steers several of her high-end clients to the publication.

Advertisers may be abandoning mass publications for the same reason readers are; the ability to find and cater to a profitable niche in this new landscape is real.