CONDE JOINS DIGITAL CROWD: Condé Nast made a significant move in its digital future Tuesday with the launch of a new iPhone application for GQ that will not only make money, but is also vetted by the Audit Bureau of Circulations, the first of its kind to get the agency’s approval. That means sales of the app will count toward the magazine’s rate base.
Amid cost cuts, magazine closures and staff layoffs, Condé Nast also has been criticized for its slow migration to digital, a criticism that even chief executive officer Charles Townsend acknowledged at a meeting to unveil the iPhone offering. But the company has already launched five other iPhone apps for Lucky, Wired, Style.com, Reddit and Epicurious, with the latter already registering 820,000 downloads. The latest one for GQ, developed in-house over three months, will be a fully customizable, interactive version of the magazine, and the technology behind it will be used for other Condé Nast titles. It also gives the company entrée into adapting and applying magazine content to e-readers and tablets of any make. “If you can get here, you can get there,” said Townsend of the e-reader compatibility.
Company executives said the app is part of a larger mission within Condé Nast Digital to create additional distribution channels and new revenue opportunities through advertising, subscriptions and e-commerce. Condé Nast has another 10 iPhone apps in development, but executives were hesitant to predict when ones as comprehensive as GQ’s would launch. Nevertheless, advertisers believe Condé’s participation in the app world is a solid move. “Being attached to Apple and the iPhone is a really good thing,” said ad guru David Lipman — speaking on his iPhone. And though advertisers in GQ’s December issue did not pay more to be included in the program, it did help bring in additional business. “It put Godiva over the hump,” said Lipman. “It was on the bubble, but the iPhone technology made us make that decision [to advertise].”
The app also delivers a measurable, accountable and engaging platform for advertisers, who can provide links to video, Web sites or specific products for users to click through, and even make purchases. Condé Nast hopes to sell ads within the program after it gauges demand for the app.
The GQ application, which replicates the entire December issue, will be available on iTunes for $2.99, and will include touchscreen control, video, music and zoom features that make the screen easily readable. Users can buy music featured within the magazine through iTunes, and the application will include links to Web pages and phone numbers for brands listed in the fashion credits and interstitial advertisements that aren’t in the magazine.
Aside from ad revenue, Condé Nast will earn 70 percent of sales from the GQ application in Apple’s standard revenue sharing deal with developers, and also snag a share of the music sales on iTunes. The company hopes to release the application on Nov. 18, the newsstand on-sale date of GQ’s December issue. — Stephanie D. Smith
ADLER EXITS: Stephen Adler, editor in chief of BusinessWeek since 2005, announced his resignation Tuesday, effective Dec. 1. This follows the official announcement last week that Bloomberg LP is buying BusinessWeek from McGraw Hill Cos., for a reported cash deal of around $3 million, plus certain liabilities, which could eventually take the deal into the tens of millions. On Tuesday, Adler wrote on businessweek.com: “It was hugely important to me to help find the right home for BusinessWeek and to work closely with our business-side colleagues to ensure that staffers would be provided appropriate benefits under any circumstance. Now that these goals have been accomplished, I’m considering other opportunities, and I believe it makes sense for a new owner to move forward with a new editor.” Adler was unavailable for comment. — Amy Wicks and S.D.S.
REAL PEOPLE, REAL BIG SALES: People scored big with its exclusive photos of a grown-up Jaycee Dugard, the woman held captive for 18 years in California after being kidnapped in 1991. According to sources with access to scan data, the issue sold nearly 2 million newsstand copies last week, which included exclusive photos of the now 29-year-old woman for a cover story on her life after being rescued from captivity. Insiders in the celeb category claimed People paid between $200,00 and $400,000 for the photos, a move that clearly paid off. People declined to comment on specifics. As for People’s competitors, In Touch sold lower than its 745,000 single-copy average for the first six months of 2009, with 680,000 copies. Life & Style sold 570,000 and Star sold around 600,000, both better than their respective averages. But Us Weekly is reporting a softer week than usual, with two sources reporting the title sold 530,000 copies, although internal sources contend the number is closer to the mid-600,000. OK magazine trailed the entire category, selling around 400,000. — S.D.S.
LESS PLAYBOY: Even before the economic downturn, Playboy magazine struggled with declines in circulation and advertising, but now the title is about to reduce its rate base. Beginning in January, the magazine will drop to 1.5 million from 2.6 million — a decline of 42 percent. That issue will also be combined with February, although no additional double issues are planned at this point, said a spokeswoman. The news of the rate base decline was first reported on Mediaweek.com. For months, Wall Street has recommended Playboy Enterprises sell the magazine, but it’s widely believed Hugh Hefner is committed to keeping it in print. Year to date, ad pages are down 32 percent to 275, according to Media Industry Newsletter. Earlier this year, the company closed its New York office and a few weeks ago, Playboy appointed Alex Vaickus as president, a new position, where he oversees print, television, licensing and all digital media properties. — A.W.
LOCAL PLAYGROUND, FOR NOW: Rumors the New York Observer may take its parenting title, Observer Playground, national are unfounded at this point but a second edition is on its way, slated to hit newsstands Dec. 2. Beginning in March, Observer Playground will be published monthly, said Lyss Stern, editor in chief. Stern will probably need to hire a few more when the title goes monthly, but as of yet, she has not hired any former staffers from Cookie, which Condé Nast shuttered earlier this month.
“Gossip Girl” star Kelly Rutherford will appear on the cover of the second issue. The holiday, winter wonderland-themed shoot will take place in Central Park this Sunday, with Rutherford posing in a Swarovski crystal-encrusted Santa hat. — A.W.
ALL OVER THE SCREEN: Naeem Khan unveiled his new HSN collection on Monday evening and the entire line is priced under $450. “It’s accessible couture,” said Khan, who was introduced to HSN chief executive Mindy Grossman through his wife, Ranjana, who has sold jewelry on the network, and Colin Cowie. Khan said he expects his HSN collections to build into a $100 million business and he’s already at work on a new collection for spring. “This is the way of the future,” added Khan, who will reveal the line on Oct. 28 at 8 p.m.. — A.W.