Jim Duhe Approaches 20 Years at Bridal Guide, as Bridal Publications Fade

 

By Paul Pannone

 In the last 20 of his 40-year wedding industry career, Jim Duhe looks back at an amazing run at Bridal Guide. In that time he’s seen the wedding publication business change dramatically but still feels there is life in the old bones; and even a chance for better print bridal publications to survive.

These days Duhe questions everything including– but not limited to– the religious background of his eminence in Rome. Duhe remains staunchly positioned in his view of bridal publications holding a valuable place in the wedding business. Duhe is not alone in his thinking. According to wedding marketing extraordinaire, Andy the E-Bomb Ebon, brides will always turn to print when planning their weddings. In a recent post he writes:

“Despite the fact that it is a web-centric world, to be sure, brides still read wedding publications, in all shapes and sizes. Free publications, fee-based and subscription publications; local, regional, and national publications. As such, the primary purpose of advertising in print is to drive traffic to one’s website,” says the Ebominatore.

 

Jim Duhe’s been at Bridal Guide longer than some of the women in the picture are alive. Duhe’s ageless grace, style and charm date back to medieval times when chivalry was the order of the day. Today, Duhe is a treasure of the wedding business and loved by all.

In his own words Duhe told the members of the Wedding Water Cooler, “Print magazines are relevant as long as engaged women are buying and reading them — as long as engaged women are passing them along to their intended grooms and members of the wedding party.  Bridal Guide is unique among print publications in that it has maintained the highest pass-along readership of ANY magazine sold on the newsstand for the past two decades.  That means that we’ve been doing something right for a very long time.

Bridal magazines are far more than “print.”   They are special interest reference books.  They are point-of-purchase buying guides.  They aren’t like newspapers or news magazines or the seven sister general interest publications.  Bridal magazines are targeted at a select few among the general  population.  Comparatively, general interest print products and digital media are designed to appeal to everyone.  There’s a big difference.

In excess of four MILLION people read every issue of Bridal Guide Magazine. FOUR MILLION people who are actively involved in making wedding day plans — FOUR MILLION people who are making bridal spending decisions.  Bridal Guide doesn’t pretend to reach EVERY bride.  Generally speaking, Bridal Guide readers aren’t  married by the Justice of the Peace in his office and don’t have receptions at the local VFW hall.   Bridal Guide readers are involved in the BUSINESS of planning a wedding.

The primary Bridal Guide reader reaches into her purse and pulls out $6 to purchase the magazine at the newsstand.  No one hold a gun to her head.  She spends this money voluntarily in spite of the fact that she has access to digital wedding planning information that is absolutely free.  She PAYS for the privilege of obtaining information.  It’s therefore difficult to believe that she ignores the information that she has purchased,” according to Duhe.

Duhe admits times are difficult for bridal magazines, as a whole, but in a generalized statement times are tough for the wedding business at large. Declining interest in formal weddings weighs down the likelihood that wedding-related businesses will advertising their wares in bridal publications. But is this true?

Smarter marketers including Mon Cheri feel there is still a place for magazines along with digital and promotions but only if they’re the right choice. Steve Lang, owner of Mon Cheri, weighs in:

It is all necessary; print, digital, PR, etc. It is clear that many have walked away from Bridal Guide’s competition for many reasons. Some have alienated their advertisers and Bridal Guide was right there to benefit from their fall from grace.

I will continue to support print and Bridal Guide because it’s the right move for my business.  In fact, I am looking for more growth so I can take more pages.

Happy Anniversary to one of the most customer friendly, most sincere , most knowledgable advertising executives  in the industry. Most importantly, to a dear friend I admire so much,” said Lang.

Coincidentally, Lang and Mon Cheri also celebrate their 20th anniversary in the bridal business this month.

The warm and fuzzy exchange does not escape the overall decline of print media over the past decade. In nearly all categories, titles and areas of consumer interest print is declining.

Another wedding industry expert and long-time associate of print, Jacqueline Johnson, details her view on the general decline of print media. Johnson has long been an advocate of shifting towards digital, realizing early on the Internet would become the game changer.

“Change!  An evolutionary process that is the key to survival in a dynamic marketplace.  And what is changing? The buying and reading habits of the American consumer.  No longer is the average consumer (bridal/engaged/or otherwise) is willing to wait for information about any category – we live in a society that is immediate, hence the growth of the electronic media and the meteoric rise of social networks.

How does this effect print or bridal magazines to be exact?  Newsstand sales!.  Newsstand sales is the barometer that determines the growth/participation and relevance of what is left of today’s bridal publications.  The decrease in newsstand sales across the board, have now forced bridal magazines to find different avenues to ‘grow’ their product.
 Whether it is through ‘bulk sales’, free distribution, or subscription through clearing houses to beef up readership – at the end of the day the health and vitality of these magazines is dependent upon the engaged woman picking up the magazine at the newsstand.

Want to truly understand and see how today’s bridal magazine is performing – forget about all the ‘fairy dust’ and look at the bottom line - newsstand sales performance say over a five-year period.  That will certainly shed light on the subject.

I agree with Jim that bridal magazines are bought and read differently from other broad-based publications.  There is a passion when an engaged couple picks up a bridal magazine – they are read from cover to cover.  After all they have just plunked down $6.00 for the opportunity.  However, the rush to get magazines at the newsstand has tapered off as the younger generation of engaged couples who are more comfortable with the internet head to the internet in droves.

Yes, there are plenty of engaged couples who still go to the newsstand, but not enough to warrant the high out of pocket advertising cost to sustain this model of engagement. Is subscription important in the bridal market?  Do you know of an engaged woman who will wait approximately 3-4 months for a subscription to kick in?  The business of print is under attack – it will never go out of style – but I do believe newsstand sales will continue to shrink.  

Mobile apps which is not yet widely used in this market, will also ‘bleed’ newsstand sales. Again it is all about survival and change – some people can anticipate change and actually be a part of it .. others see change just before they happen and adjust to them; some don’t realize change or don’t recognize change and become consumed by it.  So we watch and wait on the evolution of the bridal publications,” she feels.

Duhe works tirelessly at keeping Bridal Guide advertisers happy and that keeps Bridal Guide beating the odds against their printed format. Commended for their valiant efforts, the staff at Bridal Guide believe in what they do and so far, the results support the efforts.

“Bridal Guide has grown over the years because all of us on staff enjoy what we do.  Think about it.  I’ve been with Bridal Guide for 20 years.  The Fashion Manager, Rachel Bashner has been with Bridal Guide for 22 years. Diane Forden, our Editor In Chief, has been with Bridal Guide for 23 years. Steven Ritterman, our General Advertising Ad Director has been with us for more than 10 years.  All of us have taken the veil, so to speak.  We enjoy what we do and we’re proud of the product that we produce.  We’re a team and function as a family.  We work together and see each other socially as well,” Duhe says.

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