American Pie 10.04.03

Once the war is over a flurry of new magazines are expected to hit the news-stands. Among them is a new “shelter magazine” that Time Inc was planning and is expected to be called Haven. Time is also quietly working on an American version of the IPC magazine Living Etc. Whether it will have the same name is not certain, but the plan is to broaden its scope to include other style topics. Claire McHugh, a former editor-in-chief of Maxim, is working on the dummy. At Hearst, former Mademoiselle editor-in-chief Mandi Norwood is working on a new style magazine for women. Staff are being recruited in anticipation of a launch early next year or as soon as the war is over. At Meredith they are still debating the future of Living Room, another home-style magazine, that had two successful test launches before the fighting began. Gruner+Jahr is still working on a new celebrity weekly called Gala – another import from Europe which would compete against People, US and the newcomer In Touch. One problem: it’s estimated that to launch a new celebrity magazine would cost the publishers at least $100 million (£65m).

In 2002 the number of journalists who were killed doing their job fell to its lowest level in 17 years. It almost certainly won’t be the same this year. Counter-balancing that the number in prison climbed for the second year in succession. The figures, compiled by the Committee to Protect Journalists, were: 20 deaths in 2002 compared to 37 in 2001. In prison: 136 compared with 81 in 2000. The majority of journalists who die as a result of their work are murdered. Of the 366 journalists who have been killed in the past 10 years, 60 were killed in cross-fire and 277 were murdered. Of the 136 journalists in jail at the end of 2002, the largest number was in China where 39 journalists were behind bars. Eritrea, with l8 journalists in jail, had the most of any country in Africa. Nepal had 16 imprisoned journalists.

Once it sold 17 million copies a week. Almost half on news-stands. Now TV Guide – once the bible of American television viewers – has only nine million subscribers and sells less than a million on news-stands. Like Radio Times, TV Guide has suffered from competition from newspapers. Then there are the daily on-screen programme listings provided by the cable services. To mark its 50th anniversary, the guide is being redesigned to make the listings easier to read, also more features plus a section devoted to testing new television sets, DVDs and other electronic equipment. Ironically among collectors old TV Guides fetch top price – up to $100 (£65) a time. The first issue, which came out in April 1953, with Lucille Ball’s baby son Desi Arnez Jnr on the cover, would command, it’s said, around $1,000.

Another magazine that has seen its circulation decline dramatically in recent years is Playboy, which once sold seven million copies a month. Now, it sells barely three million, and a paltry 425,000 on news-stands. Its decline is directly attributed to increasing competition. In a bid to restore its old fortune, Hugh Hefner’s company recently hired two ex-Maxim journalists, James Kaminsky and Steve Russell to put a new face on Playboy. One plan is to provide more catchy graphics, gags, sidebars and fashion coverage. Sex and the Playmates are going to be downplayed. Could it happen that some day people might buy Playboy for its articles?

By Jeffrey Blyth

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