As the overall media environment continues to splinter into more specialized outlets, PR pros are constantly looking for more controlled environments in which to pass on their clients' messages.
Such factors make custom publishing - an industry whose expertise at producing media is virtually on par with A-list magazine publishers - an attractive, and increasingly popular, option.
According to the Custom Publishing Council (CPC), an industry trade group, spending on custom publishing grew 6.5% in 2003, the most recent year for which numbers were available. The average company surveyed spent more than $700,000 annually on such services.
"Custom publishing is about creating serialized relationships with customers and other stakeholders," says Howard Lalli, an SVP at Edelman who handles the firm's custom publishing work. "We think PR is quite well suited to do that... what makes custom publishing different is doing so within a medium that the client controls."
CPC executive director Lori Rosen says many companies are using custom publications as both an internal and external communications tool. "Companies in general are devoting more resources, the standards keep going up... from an internal point of view, it makes employees feel good to see their company devote resources [to them]," she says.
She adds that the industry is growing at roughly 5% per year and total expenditures on custom publishing stand at nearly $40 billion annually. The CPC's membership has more than tripled in five years - from 25 in 2002 to 80 today.
Many overall marketing strategies could benefit from the addition of a custom publishing element, Lalli says, adding that custom publishing also addresses another issue within marketing.
"One of the things that marketers and communicators today are very focused on is the creation of a sense of community among an audience," he notes. "And that's one of the things that [custom] publications have always done well. When you receive your New Yorker magazine, you're aware that you're part of a group... and that's what good custom publications are doing [for] brands."
Custom publishing unites stakeholders
The industry's growth is making the product more professional
Custom titles should be integrated in a marketing mix, but must be interesting enough to stand alone