Publication will promote city tourism Baltimore will be 1st to use 'About' circular in U.S. newspapers

'No limit to market'

Duo hopes product is seen as affordable marketing tool

October 12, 1998|By June Arney | June Arney,SUN STAFF

Local attorney Robert S. Hillman and Ted Venetoulis, the former Baltimore County executive turned publisher, are launching a tourism publication to appear in selected metropolitan newspapers to promote cities that pay to be clients.

"Cities do direct mail or regional advertising, but we haven't seen anything like this," Venetoulis said. "There seems to be no limit to the market."

Hillman, 59, and Venetoulis, 63, co-owners of H & V Publishing Inc., are offering their product to convention and visitors' bureaus in the business of marketing cities. The creation is called "About (fill in the name of the client city)." The first customer is the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association, so the publication is called "About Baltimore."

The businessmen hope to turn a profit while giving cities an effective and affordable way to promote themselves. The cities pick the topics, and the businessmen work on the stories and advertising.

For between $25,000 and $50,000, a city can have a colorful, slick newspaper insert placed into a half-million to a million newspapers in several markets the city selects.

Baltimore's version will showcase the city in the context of a second renaissance, featuring stories about the recent $151 million expansion of the convention center, the opening of the Ravens stadium and a host of new and established restaurants.

The goal for the Baltimore insert, scheduled to appear in the Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, Newsday and Bergen

Record in January, is to boost leisure travel during the area's traditionally slow season. Copies will be available for distribution to convention planners and conventioneers.

'Tell our story'

BACVA will spend about $40,000 on the image-building publication.

"It's an opportunity to tell our story the way we want it told," said Carroll R. Armstrong, president and chief executive officer of BACVA. "It's an opportunity to get in front of and make an impression on 3.6 million people."

The publication is patterned after a similar product called PACE magazine, published by then-Piedmont Airlines during the 1960s and 1970s. Hillman and Venetoulis began work on the idea in earnest in January, then attended the National Conference of the Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus in Orlando, Fla., in July. They expected three clients the first year, but are negotiating with six, in addition to their work in Baltimore.

Kansas City, Atlanta, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Birmingham, Ala., are interested. A Kansas City version is likely to be published in the spring.

The project is a logical meld for the two friends who met during William Donald Schaefer's first mayoral campaign in 1971. Venetoulis was Schaefer's campaign manager; Hillman a volunteer.

Previous experience

It combines Hillman's experience in the travel business from when he served as the first chairman of the convention center and convention bureau, with Venetoulis' knowledge of publishing. Venetoulis owned and published seven newspapers known as the Times Publishing Group. He sold the company in about 1985 to Patuxent Publishing Co., which has been purchased by The Baltimore Sun.

The businessmen hope the venture will be profitable by the second year, taking three years to five years to recoup start-up costs, Hillman said.

Next year, Hillman plans to spend 80 percent of his time practicing law and the remainder on the venture. He hopes to retire from law in about three years.

While the project's focus is confined to the United States, foreign clients may not be far off. "London now flies to BWI," Venetoulis said. "They might need to do something in the market. That's the kind of thing we'd look into."

Pub Date: 10/12/98

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.