NEW YORK — The semi-annual release of the Audit Bureau of Circulation figures is a bit like an editor’s equivalent of a report card. It’s the means by which their bosses — media magnates like Cathleen Black and S.I. Newhouse Jr. —decide whether their editors are goingoff to Harvard (i.e. getting a raise), or whether they’re being shuffled off to community college (read: getting canned).

This season’s clear loser is the teen magazine category. YM, Seventeen and Teen People all suffered precipitious declines on newsstand this year, thanks in no small part to the diminished interest in young pop stars like Britney Spears and ’NSync. But Cosmogirl managed to buck that trend (up 16.6 percent on newsstand and 46.6 percent in subscriptions), doing little to quell speculation that editor Atoosa Rubenstein may be at the top of the short list to replace Seventeen’s Annemarie Iverson if she should get the boot when Elizabeth Crow arrives at the Primedia offices as the company’s new editorial director next week. (Sources, however, say Rubenstein may wish to remain in her current job.)

Women’s fashion magazines, on the other hand, did better as Americans began to return to pre-Sept. 11 shopping habits. The only magazine from that set to post a drop on newsstands was Elle, which was down 4 percent.

Elle’s fellow Hachette Filipacchi imprint Premiere did worse. For the period, the magazine posted an 18.7 percent decline on newsstand, which possibly results more from its production cycle than any other problem. Like others, Premiere’s newsstand sales have been dropping steadily for a while thanks mainly to Entertainment Weekly and the Internet which have, through their ability to break news quickly, blasted the monthly competition. Here’s an idea: turn the monthly entertainment mags into weeklies.

The most puzzling set of numbers belonged to Men’s Journal. For the six-month-period, the magazine was up 8.2 percent on newsstands, making Jann Wenner’s recent firing of editor Sid Evans — whom he replaced this week with Bob Wallace — a bit of a head-scratcher.

As for the least surprising drop, that would have to go to the Harvard Business Review (down 21.4 percent), where former editor Suzy Wetlaufer’s affair with Jack Welch apparently did as little for the magazine’s credibility with readers as it did for her career, she got canned in the spring.Here are the biggest winners and losers in the fashion and lifestyle category, as judged by their newsstand performance for the first half.

Winners’ Circle

Real Simple’s Carrie Tuhy (+40.7), Us Weekly’s Bonnie Fuller (+30.1 percent), Vogue’s Anna Wintour (+24), The New Yorker’s David Remnick (+18.8), Cosmogirl’s Atoosa Rubenstein (+16.6), Jane’s Jane Pratt (+14.7), Cosmopolitan’s Kate White (+11.5), Esquire’s David Granger (+11.5), Harper’s Bazaar’s Glenda Bailey (+11.2), Architectural Digest’s Paige Rense (+10.2), Marie Claire’s Lesley Jane Seymour (+10.6), Men’s Journal’s Sid Evans (+8.2), and W’s Patrick McCarthy (+5.5). W and Jane are sister publications of WWD.

Losers’ Circle

O, The Oprah Magazine’s Amy Gross (-29.3 percent), YM’s Christina Kelly (-26.8, despite Kelly’s earlier insistence that YM would buck the sector’s downward trend); Seventeen’s Annemarie Iverson (-21.5); Out’s Brendan Lemon (-20.9); Premiere’s Peter Herbst (-18.7); GQ’s Art Cooper (-12.9 percent, continuing its downward trend, thanks to magazines like Maxim and FHM), Elle’s Roberta Myers (-4), Rolling Stone (-15.6) and Rosie (-14 percent).

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