MEDIA FITNESS JOURNALISM: Media Roundup - Variety of outletsensures there's a title that fits you

For many Americans, the new year brings new fitness resolutions.

David Ward finds that the companies best suited to help achieve these

goals have a wide range of magazines with which to reach the public



One tradition that follows the excesses of the holiday season is the New

Year's resolution, and for many, that means getting in shape. While

published studies show that more and more Americans now qualify as

clinically obese, a booming fitness industry and a host of media outlets

dedicated to everything from eating right to doing the right exercises

prove that most haven't given up the "battle of the bulge."



Catering to this desire to better one's body are a series of

industries - including weight-loss companies, fitness clubs and

equipment manufacturers, apparel and shoe makers, and nutritional

supplement firms - that offer increasingly sophisticated fitness

solutions. "As an industry, we're a far cry from the medicine ball,"

notes Jon Harris, VP of media development and communications at Bally

Total Fitness. "It's important we communicate that."



Pressing fitness issues



It's up to fitness magazines to not just evaluate these products and

trends, but to also serve a motivational role, mixing testimonials with

encouragement and goal-setting. Fabiola Zanzo, VP at Alan Taylor

Communications, says the editors and staff reporters at fitness outlets

take this role very seriously, and often have almost a proprietary

relationship with readers. Zanzo, who represents GNC, explains, "A lot

of times they're very closed-minded to their readers' wants or needs.

GNC might have a lot of products that interest their readers, but they

have this wall up, saying, 'My readers don't need that.'"



There are media outlets for every type of fitness, although much of the

content is geared toward the already-committed fitness enthusiast. Some,

like Bicycling and Runner's World, target a specific sub-group, while

others, such as Men's Health and Shape, are more general-interest

outlets that compete for both ad dollars and readers with Maxim and

Cosmopolitan.



Fitness outlets are mostly divided along gender lines. Jason

Schlossberg, account supervisor with Middleberg Euro RSCG, says

different approaches are needed when pitching men's and women's fitness

reporters. "Men's magazines are obviously product-focused and

results-oriented," he notes. "My pitch to a male-oriented publication

also might be a little more irreverent.



The women's magazines do have products and results, but they often look

at the emotional underpinnings of the importance of fitness in a women's

life."



Ashley Molloy, account exec at The Blaze Company, says she's noticed a

trend toward more service reporting. "Fitness publications seem to be

doing more product and service evaluation than ever," says Molloy, whose

agency represents Reebok, Denise Austin, and fitness spas such as The

Palms at Palm Springs and The Oaks at Ojai. "For instance, Self has a

rating system that lets readers know what testers think of new products,

diets, or services."



Tom Armstrong, communications director with bicycle maker Cannondale,

warns that the mainstream press also devotes a lot of space to fitness,

but the requirements are different. Main-stream reporters, he says,

often don't even give a new product a hands-on trial before doing a

story. "First and foremost, the magazines are interested in something

that's going to have great visual appeal," he says. "If you have a new

road bike, for example, that's really light but looks exactly like the

previous model, that's going to be a tougher sell."



On the other hand, a new look goes a long way. Armstrong says he's had

recent success getting coverage in outlets such as GQ and Good Morning

America for a new Cannondale bike that has a distinctive natural wood

grain appearance. Unlike most other PR execs we spoke to, Armstrong

tends to pitch a single product story rather than integrating the

company's products into overall trend pieces.



Fitness is a subject not generally covered by high-profile

reporters.



Among the most influential journalists in the field are David Zinczenko,

editor-in-chief of Men's Health, Linda Lewis and Linda Shelton at Shape,

AP writer Ira Dreyfuss, and Fitness magazine's Nicole Dorsey and Janet

Lee.



Most fitness publications are long-lead outlets that tend to rely a lot

on freelancers. "Even if you talk to an editor, they'll usually pass the

story idea on to somebody they pick," notes Schlossberg. "But once you

learn who the key freelancers are, you can pitch directly to them and

get stories in a lot of different publications. They might be writing on

fitness for Marie Claire one month, Shape the next, and Ladies' Home

Journal the following month."



Targeting more mainstream outlets



TV, on the other hand, requires a different approach. While there are

fitness programs on networks like ESPN, Zan-zo feels they're not ideal

for new products. Instead, she prefers lifestyle shows, adding, "Morning

shows are the best, especially this time of year. It's not just the

shopping guides and the resolution shows, it's also how to get rid of

the pounds you put on during the holidays."



The past few years have seen a convergence between mainstream and

specialist publications. While mainstream titles are adding fitness

coverage, fitness-oriented outlets are trying to position themselves as

more mainstream. "I don't really differentiate between Cosmopolitan and

Shape," confirms Schlossberg. "They may have slightly different

demographics, but I consider them all part of the general-interest

press."



A similar phenomenon is occurring on the men's side. "They're all

competing with the Maxims of the world," Zanzo says. "It's a smart

business move because their readers want those kinds of stories." She

says that one reflection on this is more advice-type articles on

sex-themed topics, adding that she produced a "sexercise" guide for one

client in order to take advantage of this trend.



Publications that aren't following that trend are bodybuilding outlets

like Flex and MuscleMag. These tend to be a genre unto themselves, and

while a few outlets, most notably the Weider publications, have some

editorial polish and flair, many are very small operations started and

run by bodybuilders rather than journalists.



There is also a host of regional fitness magazines that are very

receptive to pitches. Jennifer Prins, who left as editor of Atlanta

Sports & Fitness to become an account supervisor at Trone-Atlanta, says

these magazines tend to focus on local health clubs, as well as new

classes and new trainers. "But for products and trends they pretty much

mimic the national magazines," she adds. "The regional publications want

to be on the cutting edge."



In general, the best advice is to pitch fitness stories across a range

of media outlets. "You want to get where people expect to see you, such

as in Shape and Men's Health, but also where they don't expect to see

you, such as when we recently were on Today for their toy drive," says

Bally's Harris.



A celebrity hook can also help. In some cases, these can be experts such

as workout queen Denise Austin or Tae Bo guru Billy Blanks, but they can

also include Hollywood stars. Zanzo recommends that while a star

spokesperson for a fitness campaign is ideal, "if you can't get the

A-list celebrity, the next best thing is to get their trainer."



Where to go



Newspapers: USA Today; local papers' health and lifestyle sections



Magazines: Men's Health; Men's Fitness; Muscle & Fitness; Women's

Fitness; Exercise & Health; Self; Shape; Fitness; GQ; Cosmopolitan;

Maxim; Gear; Stuff; Muscle Media; Women's Physique World; Muscular

Development; Runner's World; Flex; MuscleMag; Iron Man; MH-18;

Triathlete; Men's Journal; American Health & Fitness; Bicycling



Trade Titles: Athletic Business; Club Business International Magazine;

Club Industry; Fitness Management; Street & Smith's Sports Business

Journal



Television: ESPN; morning shows



Internet: Fitnessonline.com; Menshealth.com; health.yahoo.com



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