THE TRENDIES: SELLING HIP RUNNING WITH THE IN CROWD HAS ITS UPS AND DOWNS.
Byline: Alice Welsh
NEW YORK--It's tough being trendy, and there's usually a price to pay. In the magazine business, that price can mean slow growth over a long period of time. Many of New York's trendy publications operate on a shoestring, paying writers a minimal fee, sometimes close to nothing. Often the publications rely on black-and-white photography, use stylists for editorial credit only and have very lean staffs, with the editor and publisher often one and the same. Success stories are rare, with Andy Warhol's Interview, or Annie Flanders's original Details the exceptions. Not for lack of trying. Besides Interview, which has been around for 25 years, there are a handful of newer magazines, among them Paper, Vibe, Project X, Spin and Manhattan File, that are fighting to carve out a niche for themselves. They're all trying to fill a gap left open by fashion and general interest magazines by covering offbeat and cutting-edge fashion, art, music and up-and-coming talent, as well as politics, hot restaurants and clubs. Here, profiles of New York's trendiest.
Interview The first of its kind, Interview celebrated its 25th anniversary in October. The magazine, which specializes in pop culture, was originally published in 1969 by artist Andy Warhol and his Factory. "Interview was invented by Andy Warhol, who recognized the world was being changed by pop culture and that there was an audience out there that didn't want to be specialized, but wanted the best, the coolest, most influential stuff about a lot--movies, fashion, music and politics," said Ingrid Sischy, the current editor in chief. Interview's circulation is 150,000 to 160,000 with about 100,000 of that in subscriptions, according to Sandra Brant, publisher. College readers have been a strong source of recent growth, said Brant. "Our ad categories are a real mix and reflect the spirit of the magazine," Brant added. "Fashion is a great category and music is also strong." Other top classifications are movies, liquor, cigarettes and art galleries. Fashion advertising pages were up 27.8 percent from July through October, said Brant. Interview's rate for a one-time, four-color, full-page ad is $13,900. The magazine is independently financed, and Brant also publishes Art in America and Antiques. Observers cite Interview's editorial strength as coming from its unique mixture of people--from Robert Redford on the cover one month to singer Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers the next. The magazine tries not to focus on a particular age group. "Just because you're young doesn't make you hip. What makes people hip is the spirit of that person," said Sischy. "Interview has really come back. They are relevant again to the twentysomething age group," said Steve Klein, partner and media director of Kirshenbaum & Bond, a New York advertising agency. "It wasn't conscious; it just happened. It's cool on college campuses because it's edgy, a little out of the norm and this appeals to that crowd. Interview has found an audience that marketers seem to like," said Klein.Paper Paper, which was launched 10 years ago as a black-and-white poster, bills itself today as "New York's only guide with style." The first perfect bound issue came out in September, and the first four-color fashion spread appeared in the October issue. Paper was started by Kim Hastreiter and David Hershkovits, who share editorial and publishing responsibilities. The magazine, now distributed nationally, is independently financed. "We started with $4,000 in my apartment, with no trust funds," said Hastreiter. Paper's circulation is 50,000 and climbing. About one-third of that is subscription and two-thirds of total circulation is in New York. Paper pays $35 for a half-page story, and $100 for a full-page. "We take a look around to see what's going on in the city, then we sift through the information and filter it through our sensibility. We try to combine style with information and music, because style is more than just fashion. It crosses with music, art and politics." Paper prides itself on knowing young people and what's happening in New York's downtown scene. From its offices on Spring Street and Broadway, the editors experience street trends first hand. The magazine is divided into two parts: the front and the guide section in the back. "We strive to make the back of book as hot as the front, by focusing on street-style-related materials and building a younger readership for the back of the book," said Hastreiter. Back of the book columns include an "action" column which, for example, profiled a New York skateboard wizard and "cultural sushi," a photo spread of people and parties. Paper's advertising revenues have grown 100 percent since a year ago, according to Hastreiter. The strongest advertising categories are music, fashion and restaurants. A growing category is streetwear. "It's a new category. It's young kids with fashion companies," said Hastreiter. Paper's one-time, four-color page rate is $5,772. Designer Antoinette Linn of Finis reads Paper in addition to the major fashion magazines. "I find out what's going on downtown and it's a great resource for restaurants, new stores and undiscovered downtown treasures," she said. Designer Betsey Johnson is also a fan of Paper. "Paper is the perfect cross between totally underground and above ground. They are in the middle, just commercial enough to stay in business. I trust Paper to be honest, up-front and inspirational." "Paper is a good magazine. It's not just an underground, esoteric publication, it has a lot of interesting information," said Paula Brooks, director of media services at Margeotes, Fertitta & Weiss, an advertising agency based here.Spin Spin magazine focuses primarily on music. It started in March 1985 with a circulation of 100,000 and has grown to 400,000, with two-thirds of that in subscriptions. "Fifty percent of our editorial coverage is music and 50 percent is social and political coverage. We are essentially known as an alternative music or new music forum--what was once called underground and has now become more mainstream," said Guccione. "I've never thought of Spin as 'hip,' that's a one-word oxymoron, and 'trendy' is never substantial. The culture we cover is very trend-setting, but that's a different feeling than 'trendy.' We don't just cover the downtown view, because if the focus shifts, then you are left out. "One consistent editorial is our AIDS coverage. We've had a column every month devoted to the issue for seven years. No other non-gay magazine does that." The magazine is independently financed and was started by Guccione and his partners under the corporate name Camouflage Associates. "We're profitable now, so the business is paying for itself," said Guccione. Spin's strongest ad categories are fashion, music, automotive, liquor, tobacco and consumer electronics. "Our readers are 90 percent concentrated in the 18 to 29 age group, and that's an incredibly concentrated audience for advertising." National advertising rates are $24,000 for a one-time, four-color page. "Spin is solid. It has the purest concentration in the 18-to-24-year-old group, primarily men," said K&B's Klein. "It has really found its audience, and advertisers catering to that group should look to it." "Spin was the first to do articles about a lot of different things," said Margeotes' Brooks. "They reported on AIDS before everyone else was doing it. I think Bob Guccione's reporting background has served the magazine well."
Vibe A different take on the music scene is provided by Vibe magazine. Vibe's specialty is urban music--hip-hop, rap, rhythm and blues, jazz and reggae. The magazine started with a test issue in 1992. It grew to four issues in 1993, with circulation of 100,000. In 1994, there were 10 issues with the circulation at 200,000. Publication will remain at 10 issues. Vibe is financed through a joint venture with performer and composer Quincy Jones and Time Inc. Ventures, which is the mergers, acquisitions and start-up arm of Time Warner. "The focus and starting point is the music. For this generation, the music is really a lens through which they see the world," said Alan Light, editor in chief. "What we cover is the new pop music of the country. Nobody writes about it because it's too young, too black and too disposable, but that's what pop music is. It's not just black culture, although we cover primarily black artists. "The other magazines are 95 percent different from Vibe. Spin is alternative college rock, and the urban music terrain is very different. "Rolling Stone is the grandfather, and its specialty is classic rock," said Light. "Fashion is our single largest advertiser, and record companies are a very close second," said John Rollins, publisher. Vibe's rate for a one-time, four-color national ad is $13,020. "Vibe's position feels really believable when you watch the MTV video awards," said Klein. "It's the voice of a new music generation, and the book covers that extremely well." "Frankly, I was surprised when I first read it," said Margeotes' Brooks. "It was not just a hip-hop magazine, it was much more, with strong editorial."Project X Trend-oriented Project X started four years ago as a free newsletter about local nightlife distributed in clubs. The magazine has been in national newsstand circulation for slightly over a year. Circulation is 30,000, with less than 10 percent in subscriptions. Project X is published every other month. The magazine pays $50 to $100 a story. "We've developed a very strong niche market," said editor in chief and publisher Julie Jewels. "Generation X is too big a market; we are a micro market of that group. We don't try to have mass appeal like Details or Seventeen. Our group is very hip, socially conscious and trend oriented. "Paper is the best about New York City, but we are on a much more national level, as opposed to just New York," she said. Project X's three major ad categories are record companies, which account for 60 to 65 percent of ad pages, fashion and liquor. "The liquor ads we are getting are those that want to attract a younger audience. Dewars just signed a two-year contract. "We are financed independently. That's why it took so long for the magazine to mature to newsstand." Roméo Gigli chose Project X to launch its American advertising for G Gigli, a lower priced collection, according to a spokeswoman for Gigli. A one-time, full-page, four-color national ad is $2,000. Betsey Johnson also reads Project X. "For a new magazine, Project X has come up with a clean editorial direction. They have already figured out their point of view, which is to stay underground without being scary. "I look at the pictures to see the way people are dressing. It's a very visual publication," she said.
Manhattan File The newest arrival in the bunch is Manhattan File, which premiered in October after a preview issue in August. The magazine will be monthly, with two additional special issues in April and October. Manhattan File will be distributed free for a year at stores, health clubs and restaurants. And its writers work for 25 cents a word. The start-up is financed by News Communications Inc., a publicly owned company. Initial distribution is 50,000, and that will probably double in 1995, said editor in chief Christina Greeven. "Our focus is lifestyle for young New Yorkers. We are just focused on Manhattan for people in their 20s to 30s," she said. "We are a very young staff creating a magazine for this audience. It contains a service directory in the back and has fashion, restaurant, bars and book reviews. And we profile a lot of young and up-and-coming people. Ads in the first issue include Guess, Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels and Bulgari. Nike will advertise in the November issue, she said. "Jewelry is the strongest account right now because I think these accounts are trying to reach this younger market," said Greeven. A full-page, one-time, four-color national ad is $5,150. The jury is still out on Manhattan File. "With New York magazine out there, I'd like to know why its editorial vision is needed in the marketplace," said Klein. Brooks, however, thinks the magazine "looks great and presents more positive information about New York, which is refreshing because most publications talk about all the negatives of the city." "It's a politically acceptable Eighties publication," said Brooks.
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