MEDIA PROFILE: Dwell has designs on expanding its consumer audience

Solid writing and a strong desire to work with PR pros has helped three-year-old Dwell carve its niche as the architecture and design magazine for home renovators with a limited budget.

Solid writing and a strong desire to work with PR pros has helped three-year-old Dwell carve its niche as the architecture and design magazine for home renovators with a limited budget.

Dwell, the architecture and design magazine, has aspirations of eventually becoming a monthly publication. It's on its way. When it launched three years ago, the title came out every other month, and has since upped that to the current eight issues per year. It boasts a circulation rate base of 150,000, and has limited competition as an architecture publication targeted at the everyday consumer. Fifty-seven percent of the readers are male; 67% are between the ages of 25 and 49; their median household income is $100,000; and less than half of the educated readers (84% graduated college) are actually in design or architecture professions. "We're really trying to reach a consumer audience," explains Andrew Wagner, senior editor. "There are a lot of professional magazines out there, but no one has done a magazine about architecture for the everyday consumer. I'd love for us to become the Rolling Stone of our industry, where people pick it up just because it's a good read." Unavoidably, the nature of Dwell's subject matter is expensive. But the editorial team is keen on finding a way of turning architecture and design into something tangible, making the magazine a valuable resource for people who do not have thousands of dollars to spend on remodeling. That is not to say that Dwell's staff doesn't know its stuff. "We pride ourselves on our writing, and don't want to dumb anything down," says Wagner. "We just want to present architecture and design information that is going to be of interest to the consumer." In the March/April issue, there is a feature titled "More for Less," which highlights six projects to demonstrate that designing on a limited budget does not have to look that way. The focus of Dwell tends to be residential, and issues are often themed. In May, for example, the issue will concentrate on kitchens, while June's focus is furniture. PR pros can call Wagner or another editor to find out what the themes of upcoming issues will be, but Dwell does not distribute an editorial calendar. If there is a specific issue of interest, editors quote a two- to three-month lead-time for pitches. Both e-mail and regular mail are acceptable methods, but Wagner admits, "When I can actually see something in three dimensional form, it's sometimes more likely to catch my attention." Regardless of how the pitch is sent, he emphasizes that it must contain a visual component. Wagner stresses that pitches sent via fax are very unhelpful because the images can never be seen clearly. He also notes his dislike for CDs because of the extra time it takes to load into his computer. On the whole, Dwell is very open to pitches about all relevant projects. "We really rely on pitches from PR pros because we're a small staff that's often crazed," says Wagner. He adds, "Exclusives are very important to us, and always makes a pitch more appealing." Wagner cites the magazine's In The Modern World section as the most pitchable. The five- to six-page section, located in the front of the magazine, contains book and product reviews, and sometimes highlights restaurants and hotels. The staff is open to offbeat products for this section, as well as ones that would seem to fit the traditional mold for an architecture and design publication. Dwell contacted PR agency Matthews Evan Albertazzi, for example, about one of its clients' consumer electronic products - a Bluetooth headset - based on its usefulness in a home environment. CarryOn Communications pitched a home office furniture line for its client Teknion/dna that appeared in a home office-themed issue celebrating the magazine's second anniversary. Geoff Sherr, account director for the agency, called the main number at Dwell and asked for the appropriate editor. After pitching the idea to Allison Arieff, now editor-in-chief, the two continued correspondence via e-mail. Sherr also mailed Arieff a hard copy of what he calls a "very, very visual" description of the product. Sherr raves, "Everyone from the receptionist who originally answered the phone to Allison was incredibly engaging and responsive." Fleishman-Hillard recently pitched Dwell on a piece of renovation equipment by one of the agency's heating and cooling company clients. A pitch was developed that focused on the technological challenges that can occur when conducting home renovations. "We had to find a way to position the less-than-sexy topic of heating and cooling equipment so that it appealed to Dwell's core readers," tells Heather Lauer, member of the account team from Fleishman. The product is confirmed to appear in an upcoming summer issue. ----- Contact list Dwell Address 99 Osgood Place, San Francisco, CA 94133 Tel/Fax (415) 743-9990; 743-9978 Web E-mail Editor-in-chief Allison Arieff Senior editor Andrew Wagner Managing editor Ann Wilson Editor Virginia Gardiner Associate editor Sam Grawe Editorial assistant Amara Holstein

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