Why Did Blender Fail?

Posted By Joe Pulizzi on March 31, 2009

If you haven't heard, Blender magazine folded last week amid ongoing and severe losses in advertising pages. You either loved or hated Blender, but you had to respect their lofty editorial and production standards.

Blender Magazine

The loss of Blender is not a story about the economic crisis.  Most of Blender's 30% drop in advertising happened before advertisers called it quits on marketing later in the year. So what was the issue?

I think it can best be told with an example. 

Let's look at Unilever's AXE, a long-time Blender supporter.  The AXE brand is trying to connect with consumers, who also happen to be passionate about music...not necessarily musician consumers. It's a big difference, and something Blender couldn't quite get their arms around. There are plenty of "musician magazines" around and Blender just didn't quite fit.  By falling in between the musician consumer and the consumer who likes music, sponsors naturally became confused with who to target. But there's more...

If I'm Unilever, it's a much better option to develop and own a content channel than rent the space in something like Blender (and we see many more brands starting to do this). AXE does a great job on this online with initiatives such as the AXE Chocolatizer, but I don't see this with the print channel. In print, AXE sticks to the standard run of ad pages (from what we can tell).

I can envision a glossy quarterly print magazine targeting the consumer who's passionate about music, accompanied by a website that's regularly updated. If this is an important demographic that Unilever wants to develop a relationship with, why wouldn't you choose that option?

It still boggles my mind that large brands targeting this space don't spend more money on their own content creation.  Why rent when you can own? Why borrow a ten-second message in a magazine or on a website when you can develop your own ideas that your customers naturally spread in print and online?

If I'm Unilever, I'd buy the Blender name, develop my own customer/prospect list, and start developing direct relationships with these consumers who are passionate about music. Heck, if done right and the right partners are brought in, it may even make sense from a spending standpoint as well (not even taking into consideration the ROI).

Unfortunately, Blender had the wrong demo at the wrong time. That said, you'll be missed (at least a little).

Comments (1)

Alex Chong

April 10, 2009

One thing that often gets over looked is that the failure of larger media outlets (print or web based) is often due to bloated corporate infrastructure. In this new era, larger corps need to learn from the grassroots publishers that are putting them out of business. If Unilever bought Blender, they would be fighting the same battle. Granted they might have the dollars to sustain in a way Blender couldn't -- but it still might be a hard expensive battle.

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