American Pie 08.06.01

What did Emap do wrong? In the wake of its decision to pull out of the US publishing business after only two years, analysts here are trying to work out why the venture failed. Firstly, perhaps, because Emap paid too much when it bought the Petersen Company, publishers of such titles as Motor Trend, Teen, Skin Diver and Guns & Ammo. For the 130 Petersen magazines, Emap paid a reported £950m – a figure that jolted the industry at the time. Secondly came the slump here in auto and tobacco advertising – on which many of the magazines depended. Plus a major change in the way magazines are distributed in the US. But the biggest problem may have been, in the words of one analyst, a "clash of cultures". As a former Petersen executive said to the Wall Street Journal: "It was like a middle-aged man marrying a beautiful woman and not knowing how to handle her."

 The f-word is out – at least in most newspapers and magazines. But lots of publications have a private list of forbidden words. Editors consider certain words slangy or outdated, though some are a little hard to fathom. For example, why is "socialite" banned at Town & Country when its pages are full of them? Editor Pamela Fiori, who thinks it smacks of the Fifties and Sixties, says: "I prefer ‘socially prominent’." She also doesn’t like "fabulous" or "affluent", preferring "rich" – which she considers a legitimate word, one that F Scott Fitzgerald used. Why doesn’t Maxim like "babes"? Editor Keith Richard explains: "It’s too Hollywood." At Allure, other banned words include "genius" and "modern". Also "tummy" and "veggies", which editor Linda Wells thinks sound too precious, and French phrases such as "luxe" and "faux". At Gourmet, editor Ruth Reichl doesn’t like "yummy", "sinful" or "divine". Even Sports Illustrated has a list of disliked expressions, including "killed them", "crushed" and "destroyed". Says its managing editor: "We prefer ‘the team was beaten’."

The latest to join the list of publishing companies laying off staff is Cahners, the US arm of Anglo-Dutch company Reed Elsevier, which owns a slew of trade journals including Publishers’ Weekly, Variety and Broadcasting & Cable. It is reported to be planning to fire 140 staff – about 3 per cent of its US workforce. Earlier this year it laid off 75 staff.

First it was a cartoon strip in the Sunday New York Times, the first ever. Now it’s fiction The Wall Street Journal! In its weekend edition, the WSJ ran the first chapter of a new novel about politics and sex by  Danielle Crittenden entitled Amanda.Bright@Home. The rest of the novel, readers who got hooked were told , can  be found all summer on the WSJ’s website.

 

It’s not just that celebrity editors such as Martha Stewart, Oprah Winfrey and Rosie O’Donnell like to appear on the covers of the magazines named after them – they are also prepared to show themselves in an unglamorous (but hopefully sympathetic)  light. That’s what talk-show hostess O’Donnell did. After a stay in hospital suffering from a seriously infected hand, she was photographed for the cover of her June issue in a hospital gown with her hand swathed in a huge bandage – and sans make-up. Other editors at the magazine were not keen on the idea. They were anxious how readers would respond. But they were talked out of it. Or more accurately, O’Donnell put her foot down. As she put it: "I don’t care a fig for conventional magazine wisdom."

By Jeffrey Blyth

Comments
No comments to display

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

one × 4 =

CLOSE
CLOSE