FROM PAGE TO STAGE: For the second time in recent memory, a New Yorker article is coming to life onstage. Like Lawrence Wright‘s critically acclaimed “My Trip to Al-Qaeda” last March, New Yorker writer George Packer‘s play will concern contemporary events in the Middle East and be produced by The Culture Project. But unlike his colleague, Packer will not appear onstage as a monologuist. (An early childhood ambition to act, he said, was crushed by a discouraging correspondence with none other than Laurence Olivier.)
Packer, who has also written two novels but is best known for his Iraq coverage in The New Yorker, has adapted for the stage his March article “Betrayed,” about Iraqi interpreters who aided the U.S. but were later forsaken by it. “I don’t think too many magazine articles lend themselves to drama, but I felt this story did because the voices of the Iraqis in it are strong, the stories are quite intimate and they’re not played out on a grand stage,” Packer said. “They’re ordinary people who found themselves in extraordinary circumstances.”
The dialogue is drawn from interviews conducted in multiple countries, and though renewed permission was obtained from the subjects, Packer said the play’s characters ultimately became composites. “The play has a trajectory from the hope of the early days of the American invasion to the growing sense that these Iraqis were not going to be protected,” he said. “Their disillusionment is a telling narrative.” He said there was “a role for a journalist in the play,” but declined to say more lest he spoil the plot. The Culture Project is expected to open the play in New York early next year. — Irin Carmon
LOOKING FOR A WEEKEND BOOST: So much for The Wall Street Journal’s hopes of grabbing slews of fashion ads with the launch of a Weekend Edition. During last week’s Dow Jones conference call, one analyst wondered if the edition has been a little lighter ad-wise in recent months — and it has. Rich Zannino, chief executive officer of Dow Jones, admitted the Saturday-Sunday edition was tracking “a bit behind plan,” and added that “we’re working hard on increasing the heft of and the numbers of ads.” The edition has yet to reach profitability and is a few quarters behind its projection on this front, but L. Gordon Crovitz, publisher of The Journal and executive vice president at Dow Jones, told WWD there has been an increase in the number of ad pages it has received compared with one year ago.
“Our bright spot is consumer advertising,” he added. The category, which includes luxury and travel ads, was up 34 percent against the same time last year.
The Pursuits section clearly houses the majority of ads in this category, while the remaining two sections of the Weekend Journal could use a little help, at least in last weekend’s paper. Omega stood out as the sole advertiser in the front section and Key Private Bank represented the only ad in the Money & Investing section.
Meanwhile, the Weekend Edition has added more special ad sections. By yearend, it will run 36 multisponsored sections, such as “perspectives on managing risk.” The second quarter also brought three new advertisers to the Weekend Edition — U.S. Virgin Islands Tourism, Norwegian Cruise Line and Bridgestone Tire.
But at least one strategy for the Journal is paying off for the Weekend Edition: accepting ads on its front page. A spokesman said the edition’s “biggest success story” is the Swatch Group, which has committed to run a front page ad every week.
To raise its profile in the fashion category, the Journal has begun to do a number of small and large events, said the spokesman. An example was the party held during the last Milan Fashion Week, cosponsored by Saks Fifth Avenue. New 2007 fashion advertisers to the Journal include Tom Ford, Thomas Pink, Tumi, Ghurka, Michael C. Fina, Zenith Watches, Carl Bucherer, Cole Haan, de Grisogono, Diamonds in the Rough and Turnbull & Asser. — Amy Wicks
STILL ALL IN THE FAMILY: Carolina Herrera is keeping her ad campaign a family affair for fall. The designer’s daughter, Carolina Herrera, is repeating her role as model, after appearing in last spring’s ads. The campaign, which will make its debut in the September issues of Elle, Vogue, Town & Country and Harper’s Bazaar, was inspired by Charlotte Rampling, who was photographed by Helmut Newton for French Vogue in 1977. In one of the ads, Mario Sorrenti photographed Herrera wearing a fox cashmere scarf, similar to an old Rampling photo that captured the actress posing on a black leather couch, wearing heels and draped in fur. — A.W.
NEW TITLE: Ning Chao is leaving her job as beauty editor at In Style to become senior beauty editor at Marie Claire. Chao is replacing Genevieve Monsma, formerly deputy beauty director, who landed at Shape. At In Style, assistant editor Kahlana Barfield has been named associate beauty editor. — A.W.
ALPHA MALE: Quality, it seems, doesn’t always come at a price. A British men’s magazine set to launch in September won’t have an aspirational cover price — instead, it will be distributed free in major U.K. cities. The new title, which has the working name of Alpha One, is zeroing in on 18- to 35-year-olds looking for alternatives to low-brow men’s weeklies such as Zoo and Nuts.
“We are going to be liberated from the newsstand, which bullies magazines into being a bit homogenous, [competing] with fluorescent cover panels and scantily clad people,” said Mike Soutar, the new magazine’s founder and chief executive. “We’ll be able to create covers with real punch…and guarantee to advertisers that we’ll step around the congested newsstand.”
Soutar, former editorial director of IPC, former editor in chief of British FHM and the launch editor of Maxim in the U.S., said Alpha One will feature a mix of news, music, film, sports, business and style. It will have an initial print run of 500,000 copies. The backers include Stephen Marks, owner of French Connection; film producer Matthew Vaughn, and Scottish publishing group DC Thompson, who collectively are reported to have raised a total of about $14 million to fund the launch. Soutar’s company Crash Test Media is developing the magazine and an as-yet-unnamed company created by Soutar and the backers will publish it.
While advertisers haven’t been confirmed, Soutar of course claimed initial reaction has been positive. “They can really see the logic [in the brand] — it’s a valuable target audience that’s difficult to reach at scale,” he said, adding a Web site also will be introduced.
Soutar believes young consumers don’t view free media as any less valuable than paid-for media. “They’re used to going online, and Metro [a free London newspaper] has blazed a trail,” he said. At IPC, part of Time Inc., Soutar also oversaw the launch of Nuts, which he now believes hits a younger demographic than Alpha One’s target. “Nuts serves the adolescent end of the market very well,” he said. “But aspirational, upmarket men between 18 and 35 have become alienated by magazines like it — we know from research that they’re embarrassed to be seen with those titles in public. We believe that we are tapping into a significant, unserved need.” — Nina Jones