A-B-C, EASY AS…NOT SO FAST: It was report card Friday for magazine editors as the Audit Bureau of Circulations released its data for the second half of 2002.

The most notable loss of the season came from Martha Stewart Living, where the domestic diva’s ImClone trade apparently did as much to help her magazine as it did to help her company’s stock price: For the second half, newsstand sales plunged 21.8 percent to 390,654 copies per issue from 499,666.

This story first appeared in the February 18, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Other home-related titles did better. The star continued to be Real Simple, which shot up 37.3 percent in subscriptions and 20.3 percent in newsstand sales. The magazine now boasts a total circulation of 1.14 million, about 40 percent of which comes from newsstand sales — the best barometer of whether a magazines is clicking with readers — and is further evidence you don’t need J.Lo on your cover so long as nesting is in and sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll are out.

For the second time in a row, the clear loser on newsstands was the teen category. For the last six months of 2002, only Cosmogirl reported a newsstand gain (a modest 2.3 percent). Seventeen plummeted the farthest: a whopping 24.1 percent and a possible indication the title may not be worth the $300 million its owner Primedia is said to be seeking for it.

Of the three high-profile editor switches in the spring and summer — at Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, and Playboy — none appear to be having immediate results. Rolling Stone was up just 0.9 percent in subscriptions, while the magazine dropped 3 percent on newsstands under new editor Ed Needham. Rick Tetzeli’s Entertainment Weekly moved forward in subscriptions, but newsstand sales dropped 10 percent. As for Playboy, newsstand sales tanked yet again, dropping 18.8 percent. — Jacob Bernstein

YET ANOTHER LIFESTYLE MAG: Now even the solid Midwesterners at Tribune Co. want to enter the lifestyle business. The Chicago-based newspaper/broadcast chain is prepping an upscale glossy in Los Angeles dubbed Distinction, a name shared by a similarly focused magazine published by the Tribune on Long Island, where it owns Newsday.

Like its sister magazine, the L.A. version won’t borrow much DNA from its parent paper, The Los Angeles Times, owned by the Tribune. Currently scheduled to launch in the fall, according to sources, Distinction will be a bimonthly, lifestyle magazine that goes soft on celebrity coverage (in L. A., of all places) and is aiming at a readership so exclusive that it won’t overlap with the L. A. Times’ at all. The search for an editor and staff is under way.

Sources said the launch is the second stage in the Tribune Co.’s plan to roll out Distinction franchises in its major markets — Chicago likely being the next stop. An L. A. Times spokeswoman confirmed a Distinction is in development, but she declined comment about a larger rollout. — Greg Lindsay

WHO DUMPED WHOM?: Fashion Wire Daily’s executive team last year proclaimed the company’s future lay in the syndication of its content…at least until it parted ways with The New York Post last week. Then Fashion Wire Daily apparently reversed the policy, saying it had decided against renewing the Post contract because it was focusing on its own web site.”This has been done in order to ensure that only fully paid subscribers of Fashion Wire Daily have access to all Fashion Wire Daily’s content,” a story on the site said.

But The Post had a different story. A Post spokeswoman said it decided not to renew the deal because of the reorganization of its own web site, which henceforth will mirror the paper’s contents alone.

So which tale is true? According to a source, Fashion Wire Daily president and editor in chief Godfrey Deeny met with the Post’s webmaster and web executive to discuss a renewal of the contract. The source claimed Post representatives wanted to tell him in person that they were parting ways — and Deeny lost his cool. “He tried to prove to them that the Post needed Fashion Wire Daily and began to disparage the paper’s fashion reporters,” the source claimed. “It was not a good idea.”

A former WWD staffer, Deeny responded when contacted by WWD, “You consistently write jaundiced articles about Fashion Wire Daily. You fail to report how we perform in an objective manner.” — G. L. and J. B.

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