NEW YORK — While Keith Blanchard, editor in chief of Maxim, and Stephen Colvin, president of Dennis Publishing, Maxim’s parent, crowed about how the publication has "saved journalism," how its success "has caused great consternation in the magazine universe," and that other magazines have followed Maxim’s lead with sexy female cover images; eye-catching graphics; short text, and multiple entry points per page, it was the students at Columbia School of Journalism’s six-week publishing course Monday night who really got to the heart of the matter.

"Do you think your magazine has peaked?" asked one student. Blanchard responded that Maxim’s circulation is starting to level off, but they’re doing it intentionally and have curtailed direct mail pieces. Colvin explained they just can’t keep going back to advertisers and telling them the rate base has gone up, and they’re charging more. Maxim’s rate base is holding steady at 2.6 million. A page of advertising already costs $156,000, said Colvin.

Another student asked if they believe a women’s Maxim would be as successful, and if there’s one in the works. Colvin admitted they’re considering it. He then took an informal poll among the students and found that the majority of them would not only welcome it, but would like to work there, too.

Another student observed that many magazines have "star editors" like Graydon Carter and Tina Brown, but noted that Maxim didn’t seem to have one. "We don’t subscribe to celebrity editors….The instant you become a celebrity editor, you lose touch with your reader," replied Blanchard. "Condé Nast created the concept of celebrity editors," added Colvin. "I think it’s unhealthy for the magazine."

And finally, when asked which magazines most influenced Maxim — whose irreverent tone and frat-house humor quickly found a home among what it claims are 14 million to 15 million monthly readers — Blanchard confessed that Mad magazine has had the greatest influence on the publication.

Meantime, Steven T. Florio, president and chief executive officer of Condé Nast Publications, was scheduled to speak to the students Monday afternoon, but was sick and had to cancel, so Peter Kaplan, editor in chief of the New York Observer, filled in for him.

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