NEW MAGAZINE #1: The Readers Digest Association has been holding meetings in recent weeks with eBay about doing a publication based on the online site. The project has not yet received a green light — eBay is still deciding whether to proceed — but a proposal (don’t say prototype!) has been drafted.

“I look at a lot of possibilities and this is one of the things that we’re looking at that might be interesting,” said Readers Digest vice president Frank Lalli when reached for comment. “But we are a long way from anything except a level of interest.”

This story first appeared in the May 13, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Still, the project does have an editor working on the development of its content: Jim Seymore, the former managing editor of Entertainment Weekly.

Of course, he and Lalli are alumni of Time Inc., where both had the misfortune of being dumped by its editor in chief Norman Pearlstine when their respective numbers at EW and Money seemingly couldn’t have been better.

While the eBay project would likely include a catalog component — possibly featuring a classified section in which sellers could advertise their wares — a source said the magazine would also focus on the personal aspects of the eBay community. For example, said the source, it might do articles on how to start a business online or through eBay.

The project is of considerable interest to Readers Digest because eBay has transformed online retail not only for urban sophisticates, but also the kinds of average Americans who subscribe to Readers Digest in droves. The Digest has also been attempting to update its profile under editor in chief Jacqueline Leo, who was installed in August 2001. Like many other venerable mass-market magazines, including TV Guide and Ladies Home Journal, it has been faced with declining readership, though its circulation of 11 million is still among the largest in the country.

If the project comes to fruition, it would be a return tour for eBay to the publishing industry. A monthly eBay magazine with a circulation of 400,000 was shut down in 2000 after printing 15 issues. That project was developed with Wisconsin-based publisher Krause Publications. A spokesman for eBay did not return a call seeking comment. — Jacob Bernstein

NEW MAGAZINE #2: The first playground of the swingingly rich is the latest to get the glossy it deserves. Vegas magazine, set to debut on June 26, is the next link in the chain of haute urban titles joined loosely by Jason Binn and Jerry Powers. The pair founded Miami’s Ocean Drive a decade ago, before Binn went on to launch Hamptons, Gotham and L. A. Confidential on his own. Now they’ve teamed with a third partner, Las Vegas’ own Greenspun Media, to produce their next installment.

Binn is the silent partner this time around, he said, while Powers is co-publisher along with Greenspun’s Michael Carr, the former president of Playboy who retired last fall and then unretired after resettling in Vegas.

The magazine will kick off with a 2,000-guest launch party, a circulation of 80,000, and 80 pages of ads in the first issue, which was mostly produced by the art and editorial staffs of Ocean Drive, Carr said. It’ll be less Texas Monthly and more “W crossed with Robb Report crossed with In Style,” according to Carr, or at least the blend of gossip, shopping, real estate and party photos that inspires more flipping than actual reading.

It seems to be the perfect marriage; after all, Vegas has been importing pieces of other cities wholesale for decades (think Caesar’s Palace and Guggenheim Las Vegas), so why not import their readers? “Sure, we are appealing to the play people,” Carr said, “but it’s not just the people who come in; it’s also the people who live here. The distribution will also be to households in the area with incomes north of $250,000. This is going to be huge.”

His co-publisher knows how to turn a profit. Powers told the Miami Herald in January that his magazine had $11 million in revenues in 2002, almost the same as in fiscal 2001, when it earned $2 million in profits. — Greg Lindsay

DRESS FOR SUCCESS: You’d think readers of BusinessWeek wouldn’t need to be told how to dress, but its editors and Chic Simple beg to differ. They’re teaming to produce “Dress Smart Business,” a how-to guide for the unfortunate few still wearing chinos and sky-blue button-downs to the insurance firm every day. The guide will be bound inside the Sept.15 issue of the magazine as a special insert sent to all 970,000 North American readers.

The guide will borrow heavily from Chic Simple’s books “Dress Smart Men” and “Dress Smart Women” published last fall, which are now apparently the cornerstones of what Chic Simple president Jim Winters described as the company’s new “sub-brand.”

The company tested two issues of a magazine with the Chic Simple name on the marquee, polybagging them with Hearst, but “we were moving in different directions,” Winters said. “We moved too far off brand with those tests, and right now we’re taking the opportunity to examine a Chic Simple magazine in its truest format.” — G.L.

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