LANSING — The editorial staff of the Pure Michigan Travel Guide’s editorial staff works in — where else — Des Moines, Iowa.
The people who help craft the pretty words and photos that tout Michigan work for Midwest Living magazine in Des Moines, owned by Meredith Corporation, an American media conglomerate best known for Better Homes & Gardens magazine.
The Pure Michigan Travel Guide is part of the Pure Michigan campaign, overseen by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, which is tasked to draw new jobs and tourists to Michigan.
Why did the state’s official marketing arm chose an Iowa-based company to do the job?
“At the end of the day, it’s the best value for the price and we got the most out of it,” said Michelle Begnoche, MEDC’s public relations manager. “We look at Michigan companies, we work very hard to work with Michigan companies, but we want to make sure the product we’re delivering is consistent and has the quality and the distribution.”
Midwest Living is paid $1.5 million for editorial production, design, printing and partial distribution of three seasonal issues of Pure Michigan Travel Guide, Begnoche said. One million copies are printed for each issue.
The company was picked, in large part, for its poly-bagging advantage — that is, it bags 650,000 copies of the Pure Michigan Travel Guide together with its Midwest Living magazine. The magazine has the ability to strategically reach potential visitors based on zip codes and demographics kept in the magazine’s data base, said Greg Philby, Midwest Living’s editor-in-chief.
The travel guide is now printed in Michigan, a change from previous years, Begnoche said.
Michiganders sell ad space in the magazine. But when it comes to magazine content, the editorial staff has to coordinate about 20 freelance photographers and writers from hundreds of miles away. Not all are Michigan-based, but all do their research and photography in Michigan, Begnoche said.
Philby said he understands some might think the magazine lacks an authentic feel, given the staff doesn’t live here, and there’s no clear way for a Michigander to reach them with an article idea.
“But they want results,” he said. “They want to reach the markets in the most cost-effective way.”
The magazine’s writers have to visit destinations to make sure it’s a quality experience, and the staff frequently visits Michigan, he said.
Philby said the magazine has a custom publishing unit, which also has published travel guides for two other states, and publishes travel-focused inserts for many states.
MEDC might consider breaking down the bid, or awarding a Michigan magazine oversight of editorial content, Begnoche said.
“If someone presented that in their bid to us, it’s something we’d consider in the review process,” she said.
The guide isn’t available at local bookstores, the Traverse City Convention and Visitor Bureau or the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce. A free print copy may be ordered online, but it takes a few weeks. Digital editions are available at puremichigan.com.
The MEDC also distributes 350,000 copies during the year at various events throughout the state.