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DESIREE, COVER GIRL: It’s clear to anyone paying attention that White House Social Secretary Desirée Rogers sees her role beyond that of party planner. And as a cover story in the new WSJ. magazine appearing this weekend shows, Rogers’ Harvard M.B.A. is at least as relevant as her skills in choosing flowers and linens. “We have the best brand on earth — the Obama brand,” she tells WSJ.’s Amy Chozick. “Our possibilities are endless.” She likens her approach to that of Dove in expanding beyond a bar of soap. “You basically need to understand what your customers want and need,” Rogers adds. Brand management can be tricky. Perhaps with that sensitivity in mind, during the WSJ. shoot with Marc Hom, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs vetoed a shot of Rogers in an Oscar de la Renta ballgown in the First Lady’s garden, according to the story. Rogers was, however, dressed in the likes of Jil Sander and Calvin Klein for the magazine’s pages.
MARTHA DOWN: The publishing division at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia reported a 30 percent drop in revenues for the first quarter ended March 31, to $28.4 million, due to lower ad pages (which were down 35 percent), the timing of special issues and less revenue from newsstand sales. Charles Koppelman, executive chairman and principal executive officer, said during a call with analysts Thursday the company is holding firm on ad page pricing but wouldn’t speculate about the outlook for the remainder of the year, only adding that he sees “a little daylight” ahead. Ad revenues in MSLO’s Internet business rose 13 percent for the quarter and page views increased 49 percent. Koppelman noted Martha Stewart has been focused on reaching a younger demographic via her blogs and Twitter. The company had a loss of $16.8 million, which included an impairment charge related to an investment in Wilton Products, a crafts company. Total revenues declined 26 percent, to $50.4 million.
— Amy Wicks
COULDN’T CLOSE A DEAL: Though Entertainment Weekly got a vote of confidence from Time Inc. when it moved in Jess Cagle, a well-respected editor at People, to become managing editor in January, its publisher wasn’t given the same backing. Scott Donaton will exit the magazine May 8, after 17 months at the title. In that time, Donaton and then-managing editor Rick Tetzeli ushered in improvements to the magazine and its Web site, with a redesign, more bloggers and original content online. While EW’s editorial changes resulted in a 7 percent growth in newsstand sales in 2008’s second half, and sales have remained flat so far in 2009, advertising slumped. EW’s pages fell 20 percent last year, to 1,215 pages, according to Publishers Information Bureau. Pages fell 38 percent in the first quarter of 2009, and similar declines are estimated to continue through the second quarter. The dismal ad performance could in part be blamed on the economy, but sources close to the magazine have also said Donaton “didn’t go on sales calls” to rope in new business. According to a brief internal memo, Donaton “is starting a consulting firm that works with brands on the convergence of entertainment and marketing.” A replacement will be named shortly.
— Stephanie D. Smith