The cover of LTD's prototype issue.

<b>REAL PROFITABLE:</b> Who knew you could get “kicked upstairs” for doing such a good job? After just three years of publication, Time, Inc.’s Real Simple is in the black. The news was sent around to the magazine’s this week...

REAL PROFITABLE: Who knew you could get “kicked upstairs” for doing such a good job? After just three years of publication, Time, Inc.’s Real Simple is in the black. The news was sent around to the magazine’s this week by Time, Inc. chief financial officer Richard Atkinson.

It is believed that Carrie Tuhy, the former managing editor who was “promoted” to editorial director in April, was sent the e-mail, though she wasn’t mentioned in it.

This story first appeared in the August 1, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Real Simple’s speed at breaking even is one of the fastest in company history, second only to People and its sibling Teen People, which both did so in less than two-and-a-half years.

Nevertheless, the early success of the title was somewhat unexpected since Time, Inc. is generally used to conquering the newsstand with titles that are driven by celebrities. All three of the company’s launches from the Nineties — In Style, Entertainment Weekly and Teen People — hit profitability in part because of a seemingly endless consumer appetite for news about famous people.

“We were surprised ourselves with its success on newsstands,” admitted Real Simple publisher Robin Domeniconi. “We expect that our May issue on making over your rooms will break 400,000. But I think that is because it stands apart from other magazines. What we show on the cover is attainable. We’re not screaming ‘you need to live like a celebrity’ or ‘you need to lose 50 pounds’ or ‘how to please your husband.’”

The financial success of Real Simple is another feather in the cap of the embattled AOL Time Warner’s most successful division and might explain why executives at the company are looking favorably at Living etc., the slightly more upmarket British shelter-shopping magalog being developed as a prototype for the U.S.

According to sources, Angela Matusik, who was doing double duty on the prototype while the features editor at In Style, is now working full time on the American version of the title. The company also has publishing veteran Steve Sachs working on consumer marketing for the title.

“It’s certainly on the runway,” said a Time, Inc. insider, “but it’s not a go yet.” — Jacob Bernstein

ALSO IN DEVELOPMENT: More details are emerging about the Mandi Norwood style magazine that Hearst Corp. is developing as a prototype. According to sources, publisher Cynthia Lewis has met with a score of top media buyers in the fashion and lifestyle categories and is eyeing a spring 2004 test. Like Lucky, the new magazine is being described by sources as a magalog but with a slightly older and more affluent demographic. A possible title being discussed? Scoop.

Meanwhile, Men’s Health is readying up a third test issue of Best Life, its slightly older and more affluent men’s title that is being developed to compete with GQ, Esquire and Men’s Journal. A Rodale source said the next issue will hit newsstands in November. If it goes well, the company would move forward with a slow launch, possibly rolling the title out as a quarterly in 2004 and a bi-monthly in 2005. — J. B.

THIS SPACE FOR RENT: Ltd is a fashion magazine that can’t be bought on a newsstand or subscribed to, and doesn’t have photo spreads or even ad pages. The first issue appears in October, materializing without warning in the mailboxes of less than 10,000 athletes, designers, stylists, sneaker fetishists and assorted hipsters that Nike or Prada might think are worth reaching.

The magazine is the brainchild of former Source fashion and technology editor “Hawaii” Mike Salman, who set out last winter to cook up a Lucky for grade-AAA hipsters, aka “influencers,” that set the trends downtown titles like Vice and Mass Appeal pick up on a few months later. And it doesn’t need ad pages after tossing the whole notion of “church and state” out the window.

Officially a “product showcase,” nearly every edit page is paid for — rather than running an ad, denim maker Evisu (the first company to sign on) has bought a blank page which it will fill with products co-selected by its staff and by Salman, who is Ltd’s creative director. Hence there will be a lack of both ads and artistic interpretation in the roughly 80-page first issue. “No spreads. I’m just cutting out the middle man,” said Salman. The opening rate is $6,500 per full page.

This sort of thing is standard operating procedure in Japanese style titles, which Ltd cribs from liberally (it even flips from right to left). Salman sees it as a way for design houses and manufacturers to promote avant garde and overlooked objects to the moneyed and self-conscious crowd that might actually buy them. “We’re talking to Prada right now about finding limited edition things they might only do in certain regions,” said Salman.

Ltd’s pay-for-play approach is the Lucky model taken to its logical extreme, pitched to a sophisticated readership that doesn’t care who picked the product. They already know everyone has an agenda, Salman said. “We’re trying to market to them without them feeling like they’re obviously being marketed to.” — Greg Lindsay

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