Magazines Target the Boomer Set


New publications are catering to the over-50 crowd. But do baby boomers really want to be reminded of their age?

Do baby boomers really want to be reminded of their age? ELDR, GeezerJock, and other new magazines, along with such Web sites as Eons.com and the forthcoming TBD.com, are betting they do. Such outfits are part of a land rush for the audience AARP has long owned with AARP The Magazine (known until 2003 as Modern Maturity). "AARP is missing a segment of my generation," argues TBD.com founder Robin Wolaner, 53, who is angling to serve the liveliest of her generation. "We don't think it works to whip out a card and say, 'I'm 55.'"

Old Media

On the grayest end, ELDR magazine, which debuted in July, is targeting sixtysomethings with stories about yoga, tips to avoid falling or contracting osteoporosis, and interviews with people such as exercise guru Jack LaLanne, now 92. "We're for people who want to stay active," says editor David Bunnell, who started the still-popular tech bible PC World in the early 1980s. Starting with a circulation of about 75,000, ELDR aims to double that by 2009.

It will vie with the 115,000-circulation Grand, which bills itself as "the official magazine of grandparents." The bimonthly, first published in August, 2004, serves up pieces on celebrity oldsters such as Goldie Hawn, Harrison Ford, and General Colin Powell. With ads from drugmakers, toymakers, and real estate marketers now filling about 30% of its 80 pages each issue—on the way to a planned 50%—Grand is not yet profitable. "But we're closing in on it," says President Jonathan Micocci. After plowing in $2 million, the owners are now seeking $5 million in private equity for plans that include TV and radio programming, along with a bigger online presence. Grand's average reader age is 57.

GeezerJock, now publishing eight times a year after its fall 2004 start, serves about 50,000 aging athletes—but stresses the athlete part. "We're not going after old people, we're going after age-group athletes," says editor Sean Callahan. It, too, isn't yet making money. But its backers believe so strongly that there's a market that they are planning later this year to launch an offshoot, Masters Cycling, for cyclists with a bit more mileage on them.

Virtually Booming

For all of these publications, AARP's magazine is the 800-lb. gorilla. AARP, which delivers the magazine free to members, reaches more than 22.5 million people with three editions (one each for people in their 50s, 60s and 70s-plus). Its boast is that it's the world's largest circulation magazine.

And who says older folks can't learn new tricks? The print publishers will battle for eyeballs in the virtual world, too. Their competition includes new social-networking sites such as Eons.com, which job-search site Monster.com (MNST) founder Jeff Taylor started last year to pursue the 50-plus crowd, and TeeBeeDee (TBD.com), aimed at the 40-plus group and slated to launch on Sept. 17. Already, advertisers including Liberty Mutual Insurance and Hollywood moviemakers are backing Eons.com, where 560,000 people have set up personal profiles. TBD.com will also feature ads, says Wolaner, who founded Parenting magazine in 1987.

Skeptics doubt all the players will thrive. "People don't want to be referred to by their age," says University of Mississippi Journalism Dept. Chairman Samir Husni, 54, who tracks the business for MrMagazine.com. Readers will jump at interest areas from hunting to investing, Husni says, but few will stick with outfits that mainly announce, "Hey, old geezer, we have a magazine for you." Still, with more than 76 million Americans now over 50 and someone new joining that group every 50 seconds, according to AARP, the market seems irresistible.

Weber is BusinessWeek's chief of correspondents.

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