I’M RUBBER, YOU’RE GLUE: Why wait for your actual day in court when you can air your grievances in the court of public opinion? Gruner + Jahr and its adversary, Publishers Communications Systems, traded barbs via press releases Monday, with each company portraying itself as shocked and disappointed by the behavior of the other.
PCS went first. The subscription-sales agent, which stands accused of fraud and breach of contract, called the allegations unfounded, without merit and self-serving to boot. “This action, designed for advertiser consumption and to injure the reputation of PCS with other publishers, serves no purpose other than to distract attention from G+J’s internal circulation shortcomings,” said PCS president Walter Stevens in the statement. Stevens, who is also named as a defendant in the suit, added that PCS was still working with the Audit Bureau of Circulations to verify some 165,000 subscriptions sold on behalf of G+J’s magazines.
G+J was having none of it, saying in its reply, “It is unfortunate that PCS will not accept responsibility for their own misconduct.” — Jeff Bercovici
NEWSSTAND BLUES: Retail sales of magazines, so feeble in 2003, continued to languish last year, judging from a report by the International Periodical Distributors Association to its members. Total U.S. single-copy unit sales rose a scant 0.6 percent versus the previous year, while wholesale dollars climbed 1.6 percent. While small gains are better than none at all, they barely begin to make up for the 13 percent drop in sales recorded in 2003, when bad weather, a soft economy and the war in Iraq all combined to depress retail traffic. Likewise, sales efficiency (i.e., sell-through) in 2004 rose less than 1 percent to 34 percent after falling by more than 4 percent in 2003.
Two factors helping to prop up single-copy sales last year were the continuing strength of the celebrity weekly category and the trend toward “value-pricing” of many titles, according to circulation analyst John Harrington, publisher of “The New Single Copy Newsletter.” He added that lower cover prices could help explain the relatively small rise in dollar sales, which usually outpaces growth in unit sales by a larger margin.
IPDA does not release its reports to the public and typically warns against reading too much into them. Unlike publishers’ reports to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, IPDA’s figures reflect allotments and returns for a given period rather than actual sales. On the other hand, IPDA’s numbers cover more than 85 percent of magazines sold, including new titles, one-shots and unaudited publications; only 65 percent of magazines are audited by ABC or its competitor, BPA. — J.B.
This story first appeared in the January 25, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
TYLER TV: First there was Wallpaper, then Winkreative, now fans can tune into Tyler TV. Tyler Brule, founder of the interiors and design title and the creative agency, will be the presenter and co-producer of “The Desk on BBC Four,” which debuts at 10:30 tonight. The weekly, magazine-formatted show will examine how the news is reported — or not reported — around the world in every medium from television to tabloids to glossy fashion magazines to the advertising industry. Brule said the shows would be “beautifully designed.” But of course. “The Desk” will have an initial run of 10 programs, and plans for an additional 20. — Samantha Conti
TOTAL PACKAGE: Though the official pub date isn’t until Feb. 1, David Kuhn is already considering a sequel to “Committed: Men Tell Stories of Love, Commitment, and Marriage,” a compilation of essays by notable male authors the literary agent and book packager developed and co-edited with Radar deputy editor Chris Knutsen. Judging by the press the book has already received — excerpts in Vogue, O: The Oprah Magazine, The New Yorker and The New York Times and mentions in Esquire, GQ, In Style, Elle and Giant — it’s understandable why Kuhn Projects and Bloomsbury would want to run with the concept.
“I just thought this question of men and marriage — despite a change in the culture and the breakdown of sexual stereotypes — still boiled down to men have more trouble pulling the trigger getting married,” said Kuhn.
Among the essays not reprinted in the glossies, there is Chip Brown talking about being in love with a woman who once woke him up out of a sound sleep to rub self-tanner on her back (his wife, Kate Betts), and Vanity Fair contributing editor and longtime bachelor James Wolcott revealing that his reluctant proposal later became fodder for his wife Laura Jacobs’ novel, “Women About Town.”
So would women writing about commitment make for material as compelling to both genders? When asked if the “Committed” sequel would look at commitment from a woman’s point of view, Kuhn said only, “We are talking about doing a sequel, but I can’t say more than that.” — Sara James