SEVENTEEN’S SAGA: The process of selling Primedia’s Seventeen is grinding along, although the prospect apparently has generated about as much buzz from shoppers as a juniors’ sale at Sears. Sources said Primedia’s initial request for offers will likely stir up bids in the $100 million range, when Primedia was originally hoping for three times that, although it is now said to be adjusting to a possibly lower price. While the gap may seem insurmountable, at least a few publishers remain interested — Hachette is definitely in, according to an executive there, and Condé Nast is still considered the front-runner by industry observers, but its executives have very serious concerns about Seventeen’s ad sales.
“The company has always wanted category leaders but the process [of acclimating a title to Condé Nast’s corporate culture] can be painful because the rate plans are by and large nonnegotiable,” said a source within the company. “If there’s a feeling that it’s got a lot of junk advertising, it can drag the price down.”
This story first appeared in the February 28, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Another, higher level source was even more dubious. “It makes no sense for us. We could run it alongside Teen Vogue or fold Teen Vogue into it but neither is an attractive proposition.”
A new owner will have to beef up the budget for copy editors as well. In the “Oops” department, Seventeen’s March cover and story inside trumpets Kristen Kreuk, a star of the TV show Smallville. Problem is her name is actually spelled “Kristin.” All the copy desk needed for a spell check was a Neutrogena ad featuring the properly spelled Kreuk that ran in the same issue.
But clearly there are lots of changes going on in Primedia teen land. The remains of its Youth Entertainment Group — the nine teenybopper magazines (including Tiger Beat) Primedia bought for $35 million in 1998, some of which have since been closed after huge losses — were very quietly sold back to Scott Laufer, whose Bop had been part of the original sale. Laufer said the group had lost about 75 percent of its value since Primedia assembled it, and that he’d been able to buy it with money he had left over from the original sale. Talk about spin.
Condé Nast is a unit of Advance Publications, which also owns WWD.
— Greg Lindsay and Jacob Bernstein
THE INFLUENTIALS: Kurt Andersen has committed to a regular magazine gig again, and it will have nothing to do with lads or Mr. Big. Andersen has signed onto the Traveling Wilburys-like supergroup forming around The Influence, an art and culture quarterly spearheaded by former Vogue design director and A&R Media principal Raul Martinez. Launching in “late spring,” according to Martinez, The Influence will feature emerging artists and each issue will revolve around a handful of topics. (Imagining a post-apocalyptic city is one of the first issue’s cheerfully topical themes.) Andersen, who’s currently working on his second novel (which is due at the publisher this fall), has signed up to play the roll of “narrator.”
His thoughts on each issue’s contents, and those of co-host, curator and author Louise Neri, will run through the magazine like an over-educated news crawl. Martinez has also recruited Jan-Willem Dikkers, the creator of the similarly thinky Issue magazine, to edit and manage The Influence. And readers should expect cameos at regular intervals from their high-powered friends, like frequent Martinez collaborator Steven Meisel.
But in this era of trimmed-down expectations, The Influence is going really niche: only 20,000 copies per issue, only 100 pages of edit, and “I think if we got two ad pages, we’d been really happy,” Martinez said. Petitioning A&R Media clients like Versace, Valentino and Salvatore Ferragamo might help, but Martinez called that a conflict of interest and “a touchy subject.”
As for Andersen, he’s back because it’s both an odd and low-maintenance project. “I talked to The [New York] Times Magazine, but basically I turned down interesting magazine ideas for the duration of this book,” he said. “This is a discrete project that could be interesting for a couple of months. It’s like a great date instead of getting married.”
ADDING SUPPORT: Warnaco Inc. has selected Ziccardi Partners Frierson Mee, a $100 million advertising agency with offices in New York and Paris, to create a new marketing and ad campaign for the company’s core foundations brands: Warner’s, Olga and the newly renamed Body by Nancy Ganz line of shapers. The shapewear was formerly known as Bodyslimmers by Nancy Ganz. Tom Wyatt, president of Warnaco’s Intimate Apparel Group, said the move is part of a repositioning strategy of the brands. Wyatt would not give an annual ad budget, but said the company would spend “significantly more” than the $3 million to $4 million initially projected last fall. Warnaco had conducted its marketing and advertising in-house.
— Karyn Monget
OUT OF IN STYLE: In Style managing editor Charla Lawhon has gotten to take, in some small measure, the kind of revenge that Anna Wintour can only dream about. While her former assistant Lauren Weisberger wisely chose to quit before unleashing “The Devil Wears Prada” on the world, Fashionista author Lynn Messina was still freelancing at In Style’s offices when an item announcing the book appeared in Memo Pad. Messina isn’t working there any more. She said Lawhon had a conversation with her boss at the magazine’s copydesk shortly after the item appeared last month, and suddnely Messina’s assignment for the last two weeks of January had disappeared. That’s to be expected in a post-Weisberger world — no editor needs hopeful spies underfoot —but Messina had notified her superiors long before about the contents of her novel. “I’m sure they don’t know who I am,” Messina said. “That’s the joke. Charla doesn’t know who I am.” A spokesman for In Style said that Messina’s role and its abrupt ending was like that of any freelancer’s there, “they come and they go,” he said. He also said Messina has been offered work since.