American Pie 16.09.05

The Wall Street Journal is taking the bold step of launching this
week a new weekend edition, which will be delivered at no extra charge
to all its weekday customers on Saturdays. It will, it’s promised, be a
much more light-hearted paper with fashion tips, recipes and sports.
It’s taken three years of planning, but suffered an eve-of-launch blow
when Condé Nast (see next story) poached Joanne Lipmann, who was in
charge of the WSJ project, to run its as-yet-unnamed
soon-to-be-launched business magazine. It was typical of the problems
that have lately beset Dow Jones, the paper’s publisher, whose stock
has plummeted almost 50 per cent in the past five years. One result has
been that its overseas editions have shrunk to what’s been described as
“wafer-thin tabloids”. All of which has led to speculation that, if
things don’t improve, the WSJ may end up as a take-over target. Who
would buy it? Top of the list: Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Then the
Bloomberg Company, owned by New York mayor Michael Bloomberg – although
it’s felt unlikely he would take on such a commitment while still
running New York City.

Then The Washington Post, which, although
poles apart politically, knows a potentially good business opportunity.
Finally there is the New York Times, already a competitor, but
privately known to be interested. As one observer put it: “The Times
would really open up its chequebook if the Journal came on the market.”

It’s
a big gamble, but Condé Nast, which has mainly published popular
up-market magazines such as Vanity Fair, The New Yorker and Vogue, is
venturing into the business magazine world. It’s a field that has had
many problems lately – including a big drop in advertising, (a 10 per
cent decline at Business Week, 11 per cent at Fortune and almost five
per cent at Forbes). Unfazed CN executives are shuffling around a lot
of top brass to help run the new venture. In any event the new magazine
(expected to be a monthly) will probably concentrate on business
personalities. At the same time, Condé Nast has just launched another
new magazine called Men’s Vogue – on the face of it, a contradictory
title. The “editorial supervisor” is Anna Wintour (pictured), the
British-born editor of women’s Vogue.

The magazine is the
equivalent of almost £3 a copy – although 200,000 copies of the first
issue were sent out free to readers of other CN magazines. The target
audience is well-heeled men aged over 35 with incomes of at least
$100,000 a year. The first issue features ads for such pricey items as
platinum mobile phones that cost $30,000, and sapphire cufflinks
costing $11,000. Sex? Not much. The only thing passionate in the first
issue is a picture of a guy in an ad, kissing his platinum mobile
phone… After several years of striving, Newsday, the suburban daily
published on Long Island just outside New York, has given up its
attempt to be a big-city daily. It has never been fully accepted as a
rival to the NY Times, or even the New York Post and Daily News. Lately
it has had problems with charges that it inflated its circulation
figures. Now the paper has virtually decided to close down its
Manhattan office and fire most of its editorial staff. Still to be
faced: lawsuits by disgruntled advertisers who claim they were cheated
by the exaggerated circulation figures.

The US is proving a tough
market for OK! The American edition is not selling as well as expected,
despite the vast amount invested in buying or renting check-out slots
in American supermarkets and chain stores. Even an ad campaign said to
have cost $10m didn’t help.

Although there have been claims the
magazine is selling 350,000 a week (about a third of its print-run),
rivals are claiming the first issue sold a mere 130,000 copies. The
first issue had 20 pages of ads, now that’s down to 10, possibly fewer
– all of which has prompted a big change at the top here. Out – after
just four issues – is publisher Gabriel Fireman. He has been replaced
by Melanie Danks, who flew in from London to take over. Although
officials at Northern & Shell insisted it was part of the plan, the
departing publisher, in the words of the NY Post, looked very
uncomfortable when the change-over was announced. There is speculation
that more changes are to come including, ultimately, the appointment of
Nicola McCarthy, one-time editor of OK! in the UK, as editor-in-chief
in the US once her legal problems with Us Weekly are out of the way.
Owner Richard Desmond has so far been keeping a low profile.

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