American Pie 04.11.04

This is the time of year when the publications that report on the magazine business give out their annual awards. This year Advertising Age was named US magazine of the year, and with good reason. Newsstand sales have climbed almost 50 per cent in the past six months and the magazine can now claim a circulation of almost 1,500,000. For editor of the year, Ad Age chose David Granger, who has been editor-in-chief of Esquire for seven years and is credited with resuscitating the men’s mag when he took over. Lately it has won awards for its design and features. Ad Age’s top 10 magazines included Real Simple, Men’s Health , Condé Nast Traveller and Lucky .

Gentlemen, they say, prefer blondes. So, it seems, do magazine editors these days. At least that’s what Cosmopolitan editor Kate White reported at this year’s magazine publishers’ conference. She claimed that blondes – and only blondes – work on magazine covers these days. Put a brunette on the front and sales slump, she said. Every month White searches for the sexiest blonde she can find. On her November cover she is running actress Sarah Michelle Gellar, the star of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and a new movie called The Grudge.

The investigation into whether some American papers have been exaggerating their circulation figures continues. At least half a dozen leading papers have received letters from the Securities and Exchange Commission, the watchdog of Wall Street, asking for information about their circulation practices. Some newspapers, responding to the concerns of advertisers following reports that Newsday , the Dallas Morning News and Chicago Sun Times overstated their figures, have announced they will publish certified audits of the sales every quarter in future instead of half-yearly. Meanwhile, the NY Post and its rival the NY Daily News are slugging it out. The Post is claiming the News has been inflating its figures by including papers that are given away, failing to remove home subscribers who don’t pay their bills and sending newsagents more papers than they request. The News has vehemently denied the Post’s allegations.

Long faces at Women’s Wear Daily , the bible of the fashion industry. With Christmas approaching, editors and writers have been warned they must not accept expensive gifts at holiday time. Flowers and food are OK- but nothing extravagant. In the past some designers and cosmetic companies have sent out Cartier watches, Bulgari rings, Dior bags, and furs. One writer was even the recipient of a free face-lift. The ban also applies to staff of Jane and other Fairchild publications. But so far no word whether it includes staff at Vogue , part of another division at Condé Nast.

Most food magazines go in for appetising titles such as Gourmet and Bon Appetit, but the newest in the field is called Chow . Like its name, it’s a simple publication, aimed at people who, in the words of editor Jane Goldman, are passionate about food but have fairly primitive cooking skills. The magazine, which hopes to sell around 50,000, is being launched on a very small budget of under $300,000.

What inspires Sir Harry Evans, the former Sunday Times editor now living in the US? In an interview regarding the publication of his book They Made America, which is about the innovators of the past century, he revealed his secret. What invigorates him are two things -one a virtue, one a vice. “The virtue is curiosity, the vice is impatience,” he said.

By Jeffrey Blyth

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