TEENS HAVE ONE LESS CHOICE: And then there were two: Hearst Magazines on Friday shuttered Cosmogirl magazine, the teen title it spun off from Cosmopolitan in 1999, with the December issue being the last. Many weren’t surprised to hear the news, given the title’s shrinking ad pages and flattening circulation, but were disappointed another magazine had exited from the teen market. In less than three years, Teen People, Elle Girl and Cosmogirl have folded, leaving Seventeen and Teen Vogue as the two stalwarts.
One of those disappointed was Cosmogirl’s founding editor Atoosa Rubenstein, who believed the magazine had gotten away from its roots as an alternative to its mainstream, high school sweetheart sister title Seventeen. “Cosmogirl was conceived as a magazine for edgy girls. This is a time for edgy ideas. It’s my belief that those girls will still be served, they’ll just be served in new, innovative ways other than a print publication,” she said. “I don’t think it’s the death of the girl, but the death of the magazine, and certainly the sign of the times.”
This story first appeared in the October 13, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
No longer involved with the magazine business after parting ways with Seventeen and having given birth two months ago to her own little girl, Angelika, “it’s like the closing of an era in my head.” Ironically, Rubenstein was said to be working on a teen-focused Internet project, Alpha Kitty, and a self-help book for teens, but shelved those projects to focus on her family.
Some media buyers attributed Cosmogirl’s closure to the shift in teen readership. “This is not about demographics anymore, it’s about behavior,” said Robin Steinberg, MediaVest senior vice president, director of print investment and activation. “The teen today is aspiring up to read the mothership or celebrity titles.” Steinberg mentioned the launch of Us Style, a quarterly fashion spin-off of Us Weekly slated to launch in April. “While targeted to a twentysomething, there is no doubt teens will be consuming this content,” she said. “Teens are not walking away from magazines, they are getting more sophisticated in title selection. They want something that speaks to them but doesn’t call them out in the title.”
Others, like Tina Wells, head of teen research firm Buzz Marketing Group, believed Hearst failed to convey what audience Cosmogirl was really serving. “Sometimes they marketed it as the tween book, the little sister to Seventeen, where I thought it was a strong pre-college, pre-Cosmopolitan magazine. If you read the book, you realized that it was for an older girl and that wasn’t translating well.” Stories in the November issue include “College Life Uncensored” and “The Art of the Co-Mance,” a story on dating a coworker — not exactly fodder for a 13 to 17 year old.
Through October, Cosmogirl had 527 ad pages, down 15.5 percent from last year. By contrast, Seventeen had 693 pages in that period, down 8.8 percent, and Teen Vogue had 919 pages, down 5.9 percent. Though its 1.4 million circulation remained relatively flat during the first half of 2008, newsstand sales fell 18 percent during that period, to an average of 302,800. In 2003, the magazine sold over 400,000 single copies a month.
Cosmogirl’s subscriber base will be folded into fellow Hearst title Seventeen. Editor in chief Susan Schulz will be “staying on at Hearst to work on special projects,” according to the company, and publisher Vicki Wellington will become the publisher of the new Food Network magazine, which appeared in the form of a test issue this month. The company declined to comment on how many other employees would be affected — the masthead lists 41 on the editorial side, two on the Web site, and about 33 on the business side — but said all would have an opportunity to interview within Hearst. — Irin Carmon and Stephanie D. Smith
ANN MOORE’S NEW PLAN: Ann Moore, chairman and chief executive of Time Inc., spoke to The Times of London last week about a new two-year strategy she is working on to get the company through the economic downturn. “I don’t know if there will be layoffs,” she admitted to the paper. But things on that front don’t look rosy given the ad downturn and since Moore went on to say there will be more “sharing of resources across brands” within the Time Inc. stable. She pointed to a recent Time magazine piece, “How Wall Street Sold Out America,” which was written by Fortune managing editor Andy Serwer and senior editor-at-large Allan Sloan. “Time was happy; it got two great writers for its cover — who was unhappy? Maybe Time’s five business writers, but they got to blog on the topic,” she said. (Of course, a blog is worth a cover story any day, right?) Moore also said she’s interested in bringing Decanter, a monthly wine magazine, over to the U.S. IPC Media, which was acquired by Time Inc. in 2001, publishes the title. And Moore addressed the ongoing rumors Time Inc. is for sale. “We’re a cash cow,” she said, blaming bankers for the speculation. “I hope that the lesson from this crisis is that we have less bankers and return to the basics with more people who actually make things.” — Amy Wicks
SHARE AND SHARE ALIKE: Leslie Bennetts is known for her ability to extract headline-making quotes from celebrities (as well as her recent book on women and work, “The Feminine Mistake”), and now will be turning her skills on the giants of business for Portfolio, which recently signed her as a contributing editor. She’ll still hold the same title at Vanity Fair, where she’s been on the masthead for 20 years.
Vanity Fair and Portfolio, both owned by Condé Nast, have been engaged for awhile in an odd back-and-forth for talent — in January, David Margolick left Vanity Fair entirely to write for Portfolio, Suzanna Andrews writes for both magazines, and the New York Observer reported last week that Michael Lewis had an “oral agreement” with Vanity Fair, possibly to the exclusion of his Portfolio and New York Times Magazine contracts, though sources said no deal has been signed. A spokeswoman for Portfolio said Lewis remains a contributing editor.
Meanwhile, the digital sector has hardly been immune to the economic downturn, but that hasn’t stopped Portfolio deputy editor Blaise Zerega from jumping ship to become president and chief operating officer of Fora.tv, a San Francisco-based online video startup that has positioned itself as the intelligent alternative to YouTube. The site, which launched in early 2007, is funded by a group of investors that includes William Randolph Hearst III and Adobe Ventures. Zerega, who came from Wired, briefly relocated for Portfolio’s launch to New York but returned to San Francisco in January. — I.C.
YOU’RE BEING LAID OFF, BUT HAVE A DISCOUNTED MASSAGE FIRST: Mansueto Ventures, which publishes Fast Company and Inc. magazines, has laid off 20 employees, including the head of its digital operations, Ed Sussman, and the entire creative services and events and business resources departments are being closed. The digital division is being folded under the two magazine brands, with all employees working on both print and digital. Upstart, the magazine about startups that was being developed by Scott Medintz, is being “shelved…for now,” according to a memo to employees from chief executive officer John Koten. A source at the company said Medintz, who worked with Fast Company managing director Robert Safian at Money, would “probably” be retained.
Koten also wrote, “This isn’t just about keeping our expenses in line. It’s also about adapting to change and strengthening and improving our organization.” He pointed out that Fast Company was on Adweek’s Hot List and Advertising Age’s A-List and won a Loeb award, and that Inc. was a National Magazine Award finalist. Sources at the company said they believed Fast Company’s print side was untouched, though it was unclear whether editorial staff had been cut from Inc. Official comment was not available by press time.
Other, smaller cost-cutting measures Koten outlined included ending gym reimbursements, closing an Atlanta sales office, limiting use of color copiers and overnight mail, and getting rid of free snacks. But he opted to keep the free sodas and subsidized massages in the office, “in part because the expense is small but more because I want to do everything possible to ensure that this [is] to remain a very special place to work…one that truly stands out.” — I.C.