American Pie 14.02.2006

By Jeffrey Blyth in New York

They are back – glossy magazines with lots of numbers emblazoned all over them.

Remember how magazines like Cosmopolitan ran covers with blurbs that promised “Ten New Ways to Lure a Man”? But they are old hat now. After taking a survey of the magazine covers on news stands and at supermarket check-out counters, the New York Times reports that the numbers on cover blurbs today are escalating by orders of magnitude.

For example the March issue of Elle Girl promises readers “375 Excuses to Shop” while Marie Claire offers “1,157 New Hot Looks”. Glamour, not to be outdone, promises “500 Spring Looks for All Shapes and Sizes”.

Men’s magazines are also getting into the numbers game. Men’s Health, on its cover this month, lures male readers with the blurb “2,143 Sexy Women Confess What they Want in Bed”.

The New York Times, in its survey, came up with some interesting tidbits about the numbers game. First, the bigger the number, the better. Another is that odd numbers seem to be more believable than even numbers. The number seven is popular; 13 is unpopular.

When it comes to exercise tips, though, low numbers are better. David Zinczenko, editor of Men’s Health, says “35 Best Exercises” is too many. On the other hand Cosmo this month promises to reveal to its readers “60 New Sex Skills”.

Lesley Jane Seymour, editor of Marie Claire, admits she has sometimes thought of dropping the numbers. “But readers say they love numbers” she claims. “Our research shows numbers sell.”

That’s confirmed by Glenda Bailey, the British editor of Harper’s Bazaar, who was curious to know if numbers really do work. She found out by printing different covers for news-stand copies and subscription copies. She discovered that when it comes to attracting new readers, numbers on the cover won.

◊ Joining the list of countries most dangerous for journalists these days is Mexico. There the problem is drug runners. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, at least four journalists have recently been killed, mostly because they wrote stories about the country’s growing drug smuggling industry or about police corruption. Another five have died for reasons still unclear.

The worst case occurred just a week ago when gunmen descended on the newsroom of El Manana in Nuevo Laredo, just across the US-Mexican border, and began spraying the room with machine gun bullets — before tossing in a hand grenade that critically wounded the paper’s chief sub.

Two years ago the paper’s managing editor, an outspoken critic of police corruption, was knifed to death on his way home from work Since then the paper has virtually stopped running any reports about drug cartels.

As one Mexican newsman put it: “These days its like working with a pistol at your head” Apart from the journalists who have died, at least 72 others have received death threats.

◊ The long talked- about new lad-mag from Time Inc makes its debut on 22 February. But it won’t be a print mag as everyone expected. Instead it will be an online magazine called Office Pirates. It’s aimed at a new audience: young men in their twenties and early thirties who work for Wall Street brokerage firms and financial companies and who like bawdy humour.

Edited by former Maxim and Details editor Mark Golin, Office Pirates will be in the style of the beer-and-babes mags he helped pioneer: lots of jokes and anything but highbrow. Until its debut, Golin won’t talk about its content in detail. All that’s been revealed is its flag-like logo, which is black with a pirate-style eye-patched skull and crossbones emblazoned on a red diamond. Time Inc claims that several car and beer companies have appropriately already signed up as advertisers.

◊ The former luxury home in New York of publisher Bob Guccione now has an official For Sale sign on it. Asking price for the mansion, with its large indoor swimming pool, marble statues and gilded chandeliers is $99 million — or close to £60 million. Not that the proceeds will be much help to the financially distressed publisher who was compelled to hand over ownership of the mansion when he went bankrupt three years ago and had to sell his once-famous sex-mag Penthouse, the one-time big rival to Playboy.

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