QUIET MAKEOVER: While some magazines trumpet a redesign or change in appearance, Lucky has been conducting a quiet evolution on its cover and inside pages since the August 2006 issue. The front of the book was the first to change, with handwriting-like type on pages such as “my foolproof outfit,” nixed in favor of a more structured font, along with a shift toward softer colors and no text-boxes for “what I want now.” One month later, editors got rid of the bold color borders on edit pages. And while Kim France claimed Lucky has never been “a hotly focus-grouped magazine,” she still hedged her bets: the editor in chief commissioned focus groups to approve or challenge what was happening. And, surprise, the research determined readers consider Lucky a shopping magazine, but also look to it as a place to learn about style.
Also predictably, the results of that research soon landed on the cover. Beginning in January, cover alterations began appearing, with the box around the phrase, “The Magazine About Shopping,” as the first to go. A few months later, a new, shortened logo appeared and in July, the top of the cover was updated to — of course — “The Magazine About Shopping and Style.” The September issue was the first cover to appear without the advertiser-friendly cover flap.
So far readers appear to approve what they’re seeing, as newsstand sales are up 11.9 percent to 250,843 and overall circulation rose 9.4 percent during the first half of this year, according to Publishers Information Bureau. Through June, the only stumbling block seemed to be the May cover with Avril Lavigne. The magazine’s circulation was actually up 1.8 percent over May 2006; however, it was the smallest increase during the first half of the year. “We do well when we feature an unpolarizing celebrity,” offered France, regarding Lavigne. The January issue, with Katherine Heigl, was the most successful, up 24.9 percent from the January 2006 issue.
While France has been busy tending to edit changes, vice president and publisher Sandy Golinkin began seeking out her own market research more than a year ago. Her findings have become part of Lucky’s latest ad campaign — its first since the magazine launched. The campaign, called “Chic Meets Street,” will break during New York Fashion Week. Staying with the tradition of using “real” women as models, Lucky asked Scott Schuman, contributing editor at GQ, to shoot stylish women he found in New York, from a painter to a public relations director. The campaign is aimed at getting advertisers to see beyond the old “shopping title” phrase, and instead, see the magazine “as a reality-based title where editors create a community of style and readers can participate in that,” Golinkin said.
Naturally, naysayers will see the campaign as a cry for help, but they’d be wrong: from January through the July issue, ad pages are up 4.5 percent compared with the same period a year ago.
France said the changes to the magazine are done, but don’t expect that to last for too long. “We’ll keep changing and continue to evolve. We all get a little restless around here.” — Amy Wicks
PARTY POOPER: As his co-workers prepped for a four o’clock Thursday celebration of the regime change at Alpha Media Group (formerly Dennis Publishing), Maxim editor in chief Jimmy Jellinek got word that his services would no longer be needed. Though Jellinek had planned to attend the party as of Thursday morning, he instead wished the staff bon voyage and walked out of the offices less than an hour before the festivities at the Bryant Park Hotel began. Jellinek was replaced by Men’s Journal editor James Kaminsky, who will take the title of editorial director at the magazine as of Sept. 17.
Many Alpha staffers did not find out about his departure until new chief executive Kent Brownridge unveiled the change to about 100 party attendees. “What a blow, dude!” said one partier upon hearing the news. Silence hung over the party as Brownridge announced Kaminsky’s appointment, many not sure whether or not to applaud the news. But the appointment shouldn’t come as a shock — he was executive editor at Maxim from 1999 to 2002 and worked with Brownridge at Wenner Media while serving as deputy managing editor at Rolling Stone. Kaminsky was also editorial director at Playboy.
The poaching from Brownridge’s former stomping grounds was also seen by some as a blow to Jann Wenner, Brownridge’s former boss and now publishing competitor. As one said, Wenner must be “pulling up the drawbridge and gathering the troops” to prevent Brownridge from plucking others from the Wenner ranks.
As if the editor switch wasn’t unsettling enough, the mood overall was uncertain among the staffers from Maxim, Blender and the remnants of Stuff, who sipped cocktails in the Cellar Bar of the hotel. But Brownridge tried to ease some of that confusion: “I first became interested in this company in the past 16 months, when I thought it was a jewel,” he said. “I appreciate you being here today, and you won’t be sorry.” Said one staffer, who shrugged his shoulders in summation of the day’s events: “It’s the Kent show.” — Stephanie D. Smith
NASTY BUSINESS: Just two months into his role as president of Time Inc.’s Business and Financial Network, Vivek Shah is said to be taking a hard look at the group’s much-maligned structure, which merged the sales teams of Fortune, Fortune Small Business, Money, Business 2.0 and CNNMoney.com. Several sources said Shah is looking at reemphasizing separate brands and possibly restoring vertical selling structures to the magazines, with sales teams and publishers dedicated to each title. And one source contended Time Inc. is looking outside the company for a group-level executive with strong business contacts who would oversee print sales. (Shah was previously president of the unit’s digital publishing division.) It is unclear how a reorganization would affect Michael Federle and Michael Dukmejian, formerly publishers of Fortune and Money, respectively, and group publishers under the current arrangement. A spokeswoman for the group declined to comment on any reorganization plans.
Despite the uncertain future, when it comes to business media, it appears some things never change — especially as Condé Nast Portfolio elbows its way into the field. Word recently rippled through the sector that Forbes was allegedly misleading media buyers by not breaking out the numbers for ForbesLife, its six-times-a-year lifestyle magazine that is polybagged with the fortnightly. That proved untrue: in terms of ad pages, ForbesLife is manifestly counted as a supplement, and it doesn’t get its own circulation figures on the ABC statement because it isn’t distributed separately.
The rumor was traced back to Shah. A spokeswoman for Time Inc.’s business and finance group confirmed Shah had “mentioned Forbes” in a conversation with a senior media buyer, but only to question the Publishers Information Bureau ad page metric as “an irrelevant measure of how our business is going,” given that it doesn’t represent Internet sales. Shah has reason to make that point. While CNNMoney is broadly heralded as a success, Fortune’s ad pages were down 17.5 percent in the first half of the year, and in the same period, Money’s pages declined 25.7 percent, Fortune Small Business’ by 18.2 percent and Business 2.0’s by 34.1 percent. (Forbes posted a decline of 3.4 percent in pages but reported a revenue rise of 8.8 percent). — Irin Carmon