American Pie 19.02.04

The day is fast approaching when newspapers will be downloaded from a computer, printed on a thin plastic sheet, folded or rolled up and taken to read on the train. Several companies are said to be working on wafer-thin materials that can be used, over and over again, to replicate newspapers, magazines and books. Some are so thin that a single sheet weighs just 3.5 grams. It can be rolled into a tube less than two inches in diameter – and someday no bigger than a fountain pen. One company is working on an e-paper that, when charged electronically, displays words that look just like those printed in ink on paper. When will all this happen? In just a few years, the scientists claim. It is predicted that books will use the new processes before newspapers. Sony is expected to unveil the first e-book, about the size of a paperback, in the spring.

The new women’s magazine that Time Inc is planning, and for which it has been recruiting staff in Britain, is expected to be a bare-bones, no-frills publication. Codenamed Shannon – after a woman in a focus group – it will be sold exclusively, at first, in Wal-Mart supermarkets. Because it will be “downmarket” and sell for just $1.99 (£1.05), the magazine will have shoestring budget. Editors have been told they will have to answer their own phones won’t have assistants. Already hired are former IPC editors Isobel McKenzie-Price and Sara Pates, who have reportedly been working on the project in London and are expected to arrive in New York next month.

Waiters have been known to do nasty things to the meals they serve to ‘obnoxious’ customers. But would editorial staff do the same to an editor they feel is mean and demanding? According to a story in Vanity Fair, staff at American Media, which publishes The Star and other tabloids, were so unhappy at their treatment by new boss Bonnie Fuller that, when she asked them to wrap up a gift meal she had received and send it home in a company car, they did unspeakable things to it. Said one of the women involved: “She was just being so horrible.” And the reaction from Fuller, said to be the highestpaid women’s magazine executive in the US? No comment.

The investors who lost out in their bid for New York Magazine (it went to Wall Street broker Bruce Wasserstein for $55m) are trying to buy up other publications. Leader of the group, NY Daily News-owner Mort Zuckerman, is considering, with two partners, investing $11m in Radar, a celebrity-oriented magazine started by a former editorial director at Tina Brown’s Talk. It ran for just two issues last year before it ran out of money. Zuckerman and his team are also said to be interested in the Manhattan weekly New York Observer and Time Out New York, a listings magazine. Any of the three could be turned into a rival to New York Magazine, which was once owned by Rupert Murdoch.

Say farewell to legendary cartoon character Flash Gordon. After 70 years, the space-age hero is being retired by King Features. Flash starred in a newspaper comic strip, a radio serial, three movies, a TV show, numerous comic books and on a 1995 commemorative postage stamp. But in recent years his strip has appeared regularly in only a handful of newspapers, mostly overseas.

By Jeffrey Blyth

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