HOT PLATE: It’s not the 90-degree weather that’s making the magazine industry sweat. Publishers and circulation experts are reeling from what has been the worst period in recent memory for newsstand sales, the one method of distribution that brings publishers a direct source of revenue.

When the Audit Bureau of Circulations releases its semiannual report in August, sources said it will show drops at a wide range of categories, including the seemingly indefatigable laddie sector and much of the women’s middle market.

This story first appeared in the June 27, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

One circulation expert, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the drops would be modest — between 5 and 10 percent, but others in circulation are calling that optimistic, and data samplings are showing many monthly publications that were barely flat through the first quarter found little relief in the second, as consumers abandoned pop culture-related magazines during the four weeks the country was at war with Iraq.

For example, sales data at Anderson News — which represents about 30 percent of the newsstand market — shows that Esquire (which was showing more rapid gains in the first quarter) was down double digits in May, according to a source. Maxim, through the same survey, also was down significantly in May, as were its two leading competitors.

“There is a general sense based on compilations of industry numbers that newsstand sales are tracking down,” said the more optimistic source. “Part of it is airport sales, but it’s also just the lingering impact of the economy and the war starting,” which the expert said had diverted “everyone’s attention to TV.”

In the women’s fashion and beauty sectors, publisher Valerie Salembier said two weeks ago that Harper’s Bazaar would be up. “I’m afraid to say double digits, but it is likely to be anywhere from 6 to 10 percent.”

But the sector remains troubled. “In an era with a war and a tough economy, it’s going to hurt all of us in fashion and beauty this spring on newsstands,” said one women’s magazine publisher. — Jacob Bernstein

MTV WANTS ITS MAGAZINE, AGAIN: Having decided that its viewers do, in fact, read, MTV is finally preparing to publish a magazine this fall, a year and a half after its initial attempt with partner Hearst Magazines fell apart. Two sources said the network will start small this fall with a couple of one-off issues themed to different programs on the channel. (Think Ashton Kutcher and his trucker cap on the cover of “Punk’d the Magazine.”)

“They want to test the waters,” one source said, “but they are actually very risk averse and they want to do it as safely as possible.” But if the newsstand tests catch fire, regular publication could start in 2004.

MTV has hired a small staff this time around, based in its offices, including Sam Schechner, former editor of the late Shout magazine. MTV did not return calls seeking comment. Hearst could not be reached for comment, although executive vice president Michael Clinton told Folio this spring that there was “nothing new to comment on.”

The first time around, in December 2001, Hearst hired former Glamour deputy editor Pamela Miller and current Spin design director Arem Duplessis to work on a prototype, but released them after the company reached an impasse with MTV over creative differences. — Greg Lindsay

SLIDING OVER: One of Entertainment Weekly’s most prized assets is heading for the exits, but she’s staying at the company. On Thursday, fellow Time Inc. imprint In Style said it had tapped EW’s assistant managing editor Maggie Murphy, where she will be joining in the same capacity.

The move within the company follows months of rumors that Murphy was looking to leave Entertainment Weekly. Murphy, who had been with the magazine since 1993, had been responsible for the “news and notes” section and was responsible for directing the magazine’s Power List and It List issues. In the summer of 2002, she campaigned for the top job at the magazine, but it went to Fortune assistant managing editor Rick Tetzeli. Murphy spent a significant portion of Tetzeli’s tenure on maternity leave (she had a baby last fall), but upon her return, quickly seemed unhappy with some of the magazine’s new developments, sources said.

In Style also said that it had promoted editorial production director Patrick Moffitt, who is moving up to an assistant managing editor job. — J.B.

THE NEW ELLEGIRL: Amy Levin Cooper is headed back to the office for the first time since she was eased out of her editor’s chair at Mademoiselle more than a decade ago. Brandon Holley, a protégé of Cooper’s late husband, the former GQ editor Art Cooper, has hired her to consult on the pacing and structure of each issue. “She’s not going to look at the content — she loves the voice of the magazine — but I’d love to have her look at the board,” where each issue is assembled, Holley said.

Their collaboration arose after the pair passed the hours poring over bound volumes of Cooper’s tenure at Mademoiselle in the days after her husband’s death. “Going through her bound volumes was so inspiring to me, and to tap into an expert like that, who worked with [Condé Nast editorial director Alexander] Liberman, is really great,” Holley said. Whether Cooper will assume a spot on the masthead has yet to be decided.

Cooper has been out of the industry since Condé Nast replaced her in 1992 with Gabé Doppelt, who, in turn, alienated advertisers and lasted only a year. Ellegirl publisher Hachette Filipacchi U.S. has tried to position the magazine at the older end of the teen category, at about the point where the audience would make the leap to Mademoiselle. — G.L.

WIZARD OF OZ: Karl Lagerfeld has been tapped to guest edit the Christmas issue of Australian Vogue — and his lineup is as impressive as the country is remote. He plans to feature Nicole Kidman in couture, Cate Blanchett channeling Coco Chanel, Linda Evangelista in sportif mode and a bevy of dark-haired beauties from the fashion world for a “Parisian” story. Lagerfeld also is profiling homegrown design superstar Marc Newson and enlisting his friend Hedi Slimane, designer of Dior Homme and a budding photographer, to document Australia’s surfing scene. Of course, Lagerfeld also plans to head Down Under for the first time to attend the launch party. “I need a professional reason to go somewhere,” he quipped. “I’m not a tourist.” Meanwhile, closer to home, Lagerfeld just photographed luxury titan Bernard Arnault, chairman of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, for an upcoming issue of the French fashion magazine, Numero. — Miles Socha

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