NOT ANOTHER TEEN MAGAZINE: The all-new YM taking shape under editor in chief Linda Fears is threatening to shed a few pounds (and a few IQ points) and gain a thick coat of gloss.
In less than two weeks on the job, Fears has begun dismantling the legacy of former editor in chief Christina Kelly, who during her two-and-a-half-year run, had banned dieting tips from the magazine, featured not particularly pretty “real girls” in its pages, and earned the reputation for YM as the “smart” teen magazine.
This story first appeared in the March 9, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
But Kelly quit in disgust late last month after what was described as a confrontational meeting with Axel Ganz, the interim chief executive of YM’s parent, Gruner + Jahr USA. Sources close to YM said he’d authorized a secret redesign of the magazine behind Kelly’s back, one overseen by Fears and YM’s new editorial director, Parents editor Sally Lee (herself a former editor in chief of YM).
Now, several sources close to the magazine said Fears is spooking the staff by making a slew of last-minute changes to the May issue, which will bear neither her nor Kelly’s name. The diary, news and college sections — all Kelly favorites — have already been cut, and even more frightening to them is Fears’ first big idea: a new health section featuring an “Exercise Move of the Month.” For a staff reared on Kelly’s let-the-advertisers-be-damned approach, it’s causing shudders all around.
Fears has told her staff she hopes a focus on fitness and health will help differentiate YM on the newsstand, a path that might be difficult considering that Atoosa Rubenstein’s retro take on Seventeen has already taken that approach. “Get Your Best Body” was a coverline on Rubenstein’s first issue.
Another edict already handed down is that girls appearing in the magazine must be pretty; the new YM will be “glossy” no matter what. “Now if the subject isn’t glossy or clean — from an image standpoint — it won’t go in the issue,” said one source.
The impetus behind all of these changes, sources said, was to make YM “more palatable to the advertisers,” in the words of one source. G+J certainly needs to do something — ad pages fell 41 percent through the March issue, as advertisers continued to punish the magazine for inflated newsstand sales uncovered by WWD last year.
Adding irony to the situation, sources said, is the fact that Fears is liberally borrowing ideas from Kelly’s own abandoned redesign — the one she would have presented to Ganz on the afternoon of Feb. 27 had she not quit that morning.
Fears declined comment, while a G+J spokeswoman e-mailed, “This is day six for Linda as editor in chief of YM. And yes, she has a lot of new ideas for the magazine, which the staff is responding to enthusiastically, but it is too early to discuss publicly.” — Greg Lindsay
ECONOMY OF COOL: While Tom Ford and Serge Weinberg slug their philosophical differences out in the press — are designers artists or factory foremen? — Marc Jacobs quietly weighs in on the eternal debate in April’s Vanity Fair. Near the end of a lengthy profile by Evgenia Peretz, Jacobs is depicted angrily resisting the urges of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton executives to once again plaster Louis Vuitton ads with Murakami bags. As Peretz writes, “What about the commerciality? Someone wants to know. ‘F–k the commerciality,’ [Jacobs] responds. The outburst is rare for him, but the sentiment is not — and it may be key to his climb, which has seemed so effortless and, well, cool. ‘I think that I’m very respectful of what they’re about,’ he says of the people paying the bills. ‘But I can’t be too respectful, because we’ll go nowhere and do nothing.’” — G. L.