MM&M All-Stars: Media Brand of the Year

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Persistence was the secret behind American Medical News' impressive gains in 2006—a year where the growth of many other multispecialty publications' remained flat.

Five years ago, the weekly newspaper, published since 1958 by the American Medical Association, embarked on a strategic rethinking of how it should look, act and what it should embody as a publication for primary care doctors.

“Sometime around 2001, we went down the path of trying to better understand our readers and their needs. Since then, we have been constantly tweaking the publication to meet those needs and on the business side, we have been promoting the heck out of it,” publisher Robert Musacchio told MM&M.

AMNews' editor Ben Mindell explains, “About five years ago, when we did the editorial plan, we designed the sections, the look and feel. We really firmed up our sectionalization and focused on what we do in terms of coverage.”

As a result, AMNews divided itself into five main sections—Government and Medicine, Professional Issues, Business, Opinion, and Health and Science.

“We put a lot of time and effort into our story selection and to our headlines for the sections and for Page 1,” Mindell says. “There are always going to be conversations about quality, and in our case, what's the best way to tell the story.”

All the years of fine tuning finally paid off and in 2006, the newsweekly posted significant gains in revenue and highly impressive ad page growth.

According data from PERQ HCI, ad pages at AMNews were up 22.5% during the year-to-date period ending October 2006. Revenues were up 19.4% during that same period.

Additionally, a June 2006 PERQ FOCUS survey showed that AMNews ranked No. 2 for projected average issue readers and No. 1 for projected ad exposures.

One advantage AMNews has over its monthly multispecialty journal competitors is that it has three more weeks' worth of advertising space to sell, the publication's staff says.

“We come out 48 times a year,” Musacchio explains. “It allows the buyer flexibility.”
It also keeps our brand out in front of physicians every single week and gives our clients the opportunity to advertise on a weekly basis.”

AMNews also has an edge over the competition through publication of its mini-mass demo editions, which have undergone transformation during the past five years and have been warmly received by physicians within certain specialties or regions.

“The full run goes out to the entire population of primary care physicians while the mini-mass demo goes out to certain demographics,” explains AMNews' head of sales Jeff Bonisalli. “It could be oncology or psychiatry or physicians in a certain geographic range. The demo really allows the client to target market certain specialties they area aiming for.”

Bonisalli adds that the emergence of the mini-mass demo editions is one example of the “nice investment for promotion,” from the AMA in recent years. “Meanwhile, our sales and marketing team has really gone to extra efforts to provide the benefits to not only our readers but to our buyers.”

Although AMNews is “elated” about the results it has had during the past year, now is not time for its staff to rest on its laurels, Mindell says. 

“We feel we have had a very good year,” he says. “The numbers are a very motivating factor but we don't dwell on them.”

Instead, AMNews' staff remains constantly engaged in building upon its achievements and will continue to discuss the quality of the newspaper and how to better serve its audience.

“Doctors are busy, so you have to respect their time and their intelligence,” Mindell says.

Other standouts for the media brand of the year included New England Journal of Medicine, which overtook Journal of the American Medical Association as the leading medical/surgical publication by revenues, while maintaining its hold as the leading medical/surgical publication by ad pages, according to PERQ HCI data.

Meanwhile, monthly journals in the area of psychiatry experienced explosive growth in 2006.
CMP's Psychiatric Times saw a 21% gain in revenues accompanied by a 20% increase in ad pages in the year period ending October 2006, according to PERQ HCI.

Also noteworthy, IMNG's Clinical Psychiatry News experienced a 13.9% surge in revenues with a 13.3% boost in ad pages.

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