Galt Ocean Mile INSIDER

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Summary

The Galt Ocean Mile INSIDER (“GOMI”) was an innovative local interest magazine that I conceived of, designed, edited and published in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, from 1998-2000, under the banner of The Helpful Press (the one-man publishing firm I created). Although I’d consulted on, designed and redesigned publication elements through the years (example), this was the first time I’d built a publication from the ground up, starting with nothing but a clean sheet of paper, and according to my own standards.

Most aspects of the publication worked as I anticipated. Its advertisers and readers loved it, because of all its unique features, and its longevity. Community leaders loved it, because it gave a new prestige to the Galt Ocean Mile area, and told stories that were unavailable anywhere else.

The only part that didn’t work as intended was the economic model. I had wildly overestimated the potential advertising revenue and franchise potential, and equally underestimated the time, cost and frustration of launching and maintaining it, in this particular region of America. I ended up losing a small fortune on it, and shut it down in 2001.


Contents

  • Background of the Galt Ocean Mile INSIDER >
  • Additional, unforeseen challenges that demanded accountability-based solutions >
  • My solution: A multi-function local interest magazine with triple-cross-referenced maps, merchant directory listings and advertisements >
  • General interest content of the Galt Ocean Mile INSIDER >
  • Marketing the Galt Ocean Mile INSIDER >
  • Epilogue: How the Galt Ocean Mile INSIDER succeeded – and failed >
  • Learn more about the Galt Ocean Mile INSIDER >

Background of the Galt Ocean Mile INSIDER

The Galt Ocean Mile is a world-famous oceanfront community in northeast Fort Lauderdale, FL containing:

  • Nearly 7,000 condominiums in 27 buildings along a one-mile stretch of beach
  • 350+ merchants located within walking distance of these condos

Unlike many other beachfront communities in south Florida, however, the Galt area was suffering economically at the time I relocated there, in 1994. Although the area was once thriving with upscale boutiques, stores and restaurants, one store after another had become shuttered in recent years. My research showed that Galt-area businesses cited five primary reasons for this decline:

  • They had no advertising vehicle with which to promote themselves directly to their prime audience – Galt-area residents and visitors – and as a result, many residents didn’t even know they existed, or where they were located.
  • They had been defrauded by, or were not getting good response from other local publications.
  • Most existing local publications that offered advertising opportunities were of extremely low quality, and were distributed throughout South Florida, rather than focusing just on the prized, affluent beachfront communities in Ft. Lauderdale.
  • They had been ill-served by their merchant’s association.
  • Unlike other merchant communities in south Florida, they’d been unable to unite and sell their district as a desirable shopping and recreational destination.

Furthermore, I learned that Galt-area residents, especially new ones, had a very difficult time trying to patronize local merchants, because they had no way of learning which stores were where, except by:

  • Walking the streets to investigate (which is impractical for many, due to heat, and their physical limitations)
  • Asking for referrals and directions from friend and acquaintances

Due to all the above factors, plus some personal motivations (described in my book), I began conceiving of how to develop a solution to these problems.


Additional, unforeseen challenges that demanded accountability-based solutions

The more research I conducted, the more I realized how deeply many merchants distrusted most local publications – especially “new” ones, like the GOMI. The reasons were legion:

  • Fraud 1: Many merchants had been ripped off by fly-by-night “new” publications, which requested payment for advertisements up front, never to be heard from again. (As it turned out, I belatedly discovered that in the view of law enforcement agencies, South Florida is considered “the birthplace of all scams”; details.)
  • Fraud 2: Many of these publications could not guarantee that they were delivered to the “holy grail” of destinations: the mail rooms of the 27 beachfront condo buildings on the Galt Ocean Mile. In fact, a number of merchants told me stories of how they saw stacks of the publications they paid to advertise in sitting on street corners, or on grass, water-logged, and doing nothing but draining their ad budgets.
  • Low quality: Rival publications contained almost nothing of value; items that appeared to be news articles were actually paid advertisements, or “advertorials,” which were sold as packages with (actual) ads. Thus, the time between an unsuspecting person picking up one of these publications, and throwing it out, was often a matter of minutes.

I established a number of verifiable protocols that put merchants’ minds at rest, that they would get full value for every cent they invested in advertising in the GOMI, including:

  • Detailed, written contracts (here).
  • Written authorization from each of the Galt’s building managers, showing that I was permitted to access and distribute the GOMI to the mailroom (here).
  • Detailed distribution accounting statements (here) were provided to each existing and prospective advertiser, upon request. Actual distribution logs (here) were also made available. Both showed who signed in for how many magazines, on which date.
  • An iron-clad no-advertorial policy (see GOMI brochure, below; this ended up costing me some business – but also kept out advertisers that desired this dishonest approach to promotions).

I created a detailed mock-up of the magazine, and made personal presentations to most of the merchants in the Galt area. It was on the basis of the trust he fostered, along with special introductory discounts, that I was able to secure his first roster of advertisers.


My solution: A multi-function local interest magazine with triple-cross-referenced maps, merchant directory listings and advertisements

The first component of my solution was to develop comprehensive graphic maps of the entire Galt area, with coded designations for each business and condo building:

I then cross-referenced this information to a comprehensive body of merchant directory listings:

The maps and directory listings were then “triple-cross-referenced” to coded ads (see middle panel on right; click to enlarge):

These coded ads were then cross-referenced to the GOMI “Discount Club Card”:


General interest content of the Galt Ocean Mile INSIDER

The GOMI also featured a wide variety of consumer interest material, and exclusive local features, such as the “Seven Questions For:” cover story feature, each of which profiled one local notable who’d done something extraordinary in his/her career (see full-length examples of “Seven Questions For:” features here):

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Following are some other examples of
the general-interest content that appeared in the GOMI:


Marketing the Galt Ocean Mile INSIDER

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The Galt Ocean Mile INSIDER sales brochure

The challenge here was to produce a four-page, one color, photo-copyable brochure for the limited distribution to prospective advertisers (a) within the Galt area, and (b) outside the area who wished to reach this prized demographic:
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The the Galt Ocean Mile INSIDER ad cost comparison worksheet

Some prospective advertisers balked at the premium prices of advertising in the GOMI (typically four to six times more expensive than in its competitors). To aid prospects in doing an apples to apples comparison, demonstrating the superior value of the GOMI, I created the following cost comparison worksheet:


Epilogue: How the Galt Ocean Mile INSIDER succeeded – and failed

From a community and marketing standpoint, the GOMI was a runaway success, in that it solved all the key problems listed at the beginning of this document:

  • The residents of the Galt area loved the GOMI, as determined by internal surveys (also see bottom of page 3 of brochure, above).
  • Advertisers loved the GOMI, as determined both by surveys, and by the testimonials they provided (see top of page 3 of brochure).

Unfortunately, the economic model I built for the magazine – my first small business – was unsustainable. I had severely underestimated the amount of time it would take to produce, print and distribute each issue, and overestimated the revenue that could be derived from even its premium advertising prices. Ultimately, I had to discontinue the publication after five issues.

On a positive note, I continued to receive “fan” letters from readers for several years after the GOMI ceased to exist – thanking me for the magazine, and requesting that it be continued.

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Learn more about the Galt Ocean Mile INSIDER here.

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