NOT TOO SHY SHY: Seventeen seems to be getting over its squeamishness about sex. In November 2004, WWD reported that the co-authors of “Vaginas: An Owner’s Manual,” Elizabeth Topp and her mother, Dr. Carol Livoti, were in talks to write dueling sex advice columns for Seventeen and Playgirl. However, at the time, the mere mention of the authors’ affiliation with Playgirl was enough to put the kibosh on their gig at Seventeen.
After the WWD item ran, Topp and Livoti had trouble reaching their editor at the teen magazine. “When I finally did get her on the phone,” said Topp, “she seemed uncomfortable delivering the news, but it was made clear to me that because of our relationship with Playgirl, they would not be able to work with us.”
Imagine Topp’s surprise, then, when she opened the October issue of Seventeen and saw the graphic health story “Vagina 101” with the subheading “Owner’s Manual: Your vulva has a lot of parts — check out where they are and what they do.”
“Even the font looks familiar,” Topp said, comparing the Seventeen story with her similarly named book. After receiving several e-mails from colleagues noting the resemblance, she placed a call to the magazine and found that her former editor had left. The new senior health editor, Tula Karras, who closed the story for Seventeen, claimed to have never seen Topp’s book and said the overlap was a coincidence. (A spokeswoman for Seventeen echoed this, saying, in a statement: “The piece provided basic medical information about adolescent health. Any similarities with books on the subject are purely coincidental.”)
“I don’t find Tula’s story that improbable,” said Topp. “But it is a small sign of institutional incompetence … If you have a meeting with the authors of ‘Vaginas: An Owner’s Manual,’ then you don’t write a story a few months later with ‘vaginas’ and ‘owner’s manual’ in the title without contacting them first.”
And what of Seventeen’s former puritanical streak? The October issue’s treatment of the female anatomy was indelicate enough to make even the gossip Web site Gawker.com blush. “It just freaks us out,” Gawker said last week in a post entitled “Your Bodies, Yourselves, Your Scary Magazine.”
— Sara James
This story first appeared in the September 13, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
CHANGING CHANNELS: After three years steering TV Guide through troubled waters, John Loughlin is leaving them behind for a job at significantly less-challenged Hearst Magazines. Next month, Loughlin, now president of the TV Guide Publishing Group, will succeed Mark F. Miller as Hearst’s executive vice president and general manager, overseeing circulation, Internet operations, finance, manufacturing, distribution and strategy. Miller announced his retirement last month. Gemstar-TV Guide executive chairman Anthea Disney will handle Loughlin’s duties until a replacement is named.
During Loughlin’s time at TV Guide, the magazine has continued its precipitous slide in newsstand circulation. His strategy to halt the decline by increasing the magazine’s trim size and dropping most of the listings goes into effect Oct. 17. “In a perfect world, I would be here for another nine months or a year to see how it actually plays out,” he said Monday.
Loughlin also took TV Guide into the celebrity weekly category with Inside TV, which started in April. The new magazine is said to be selling only around 110,000 copies a week on the newsstand. A spokeswoman said that number was projected to double after Inside TV becomes available at Wal-Mart stores later this month, but some insiders are worried TV Guide’s format change could cut into the newer title’s sales. “We’ve looked at that issue of cannibalization and are very comfortable that these books are sufficiently differentiated editorially that it shouldn’t be a factor,” Loughlin said.
— Jeff Bercovici
SET FOR TAKEOFF: At Rodale, it’s out with the somewhat new, in with the very new. 10 days after shutting down four-year-old Organic Style, the publisher is set to announce a full-scale launch of Women’s Health. Over the course of several test issues, the Men’s Health spin-off sold more than 40 percent of the copies it put on newsstands (industry average is under 35 percent), and acquired 200,000-plus subscribers. According to a Rodale source, the company is set to announce that Women’s Health will appear 10 times in 2006, with an initial rate base of 400,000.