Meet the Masters: Edward Fones
Ed Fones, the former senior vice president, managing director and worldwide publisher for the Men's Health Group at Rodale, is now president of Fones Consulting. This practice guides clients in overall magazine strategy and improving profitability, consumer marketing, creative development, e-mail marketing and more. Prior to his publisher role at Men's Health, Fones was vice president of circulation for all Rodale titles. In January 1999, he was the youngest member to be inducted into the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) Hall of Fame. He now takes a moment to reflect on U.K. magazines, his mentors, and the application of "shower ideas."
Q: What is your dream circulation job?
A: Being actively involved in the growth of Men's Health magazine. I think what I would call the dream circulation job would be the head of consumer marketing for Men's Health, a publication that has huge consumer demand where you're able to charge premium price, and really use a multitude of sourcesfrom television to direct mail to package inserts. We had a breadth of sources that worked so well. That was just a really fun place to be. You could push price and test a lot.
Q: What aspect of the direct marketing discipline do you love most?
A: Learning about how consumers will respond to different creative and offers is extremely interesting.
I love that you have the ability to wake up in the morning, come up with an idea in the shower and a couple of weeks later, get real feedback from consumers on how well it did.
Also, the objectivity of direct marketing: It is testing based, not opinion based. At the end of the day, consumers vote with their checkbooks.
Q: Who do you consider to be your direct marketing mentor?
A: John Griffin. As I was growing up at Rodale, he was the vice president of circulation, then eventually the president of the magazine division. He really played a major role in my career developmenteven personal development. He encouraged me to take risks and be aggressive. He is a very competitive person, as am I. He would motivate you to
certainly do your best.
At the same time at Rodale, Bob Teufel taught me how to handle myselfnot just in direct marketing aspectsbut in all aspects. I started at Rodale when I was 21. I did a lot of growing up there. Never were Bob or John threatened if you disagreed with their ideas. They actually encouraged you to challenge them. That was a key, certainly, for me to stay there for 22-1/2 years.
Q: What are the biggest prospecting challenges facing circulation directors right now?
A: The major challenge is that there are very few new sources of circulationespecially with the decline of Publishers Clearing House. There really have not been a whole lot of innovations in terms of new sources.
The continued downward spiral of circulation pricing certainly is a huge challenge. More magazines are being given away for free. Magazines have lowered their subscription prices because they want to maintain rate bases and drive advertising revenue. But ultimately that creates a challenge in terms of establishing real value for magazines.
And finally, the challenge for magazines has always been to stand out at a very crowded newsstand.
Q: In the United Kingdom, consumers pay a much higher cost for magazines than in the United States. What has altered American consumers' perceived value of publications?
A: In the U.K., the magazine business is primarily newsstand-driven. Getting home delivery is an added bonus to the consumer, so circulators could charge more. On the U.S. side, we have historically undervalued and underpriced our magazines because the advertising market has been so rich that even when we were giving the magazines away, publishers were still making money. A lot of magazines today have inflated rate bases, but they're inflated because it's a profitable economic model to charge less for the magazine, get a bigger circulation and gain more in terms of advertising.
Q: To what publications do you subscribe and why?
A: Since I started consulting, I subscribe to all of my clients' publications. But to name a few: Runner's WorldI'm an active runner, and every month it has great practical tips on how to improve my running, as well as inspiration and motivation; Smart Moneyit has given me a valuable education about finance; Men's Healthit's a magazine that's very practical and positive on a
variety of subjects; and Golf Digest, which I've done consulting work for as well find tons of tips to try to help my pathetic golf game.