ONE OR TWO BLIPS: Financial market turbulence, housing bubble bursts, Bear Stearns collapses — no wonder advertising isn’t looking rosy (or that most publishers don’t want to go on the record and talk about it). As the end of the first half draws near for magazines, business looks soft. Through April, the latest Media Industry Newsletter numbers show ad pages declined for most fashion titles and the unpredictable economy makes it impossible to predict how things will end up by June, much less the entire year. “Across the board, I don’t think it’s going to be an easy year for magazines, and publishers are bracing for it,” said Shape publisher Sabine Feldmann. One thing’s for sure: Many titles that boasted about their best years ever in 2007 will face an uphill battle to increase pages during these turbulent economic times.
Despite the gloomy outlook, publishers remain surprisingly (or characteristically?) upbeat, pontificating on how their brands can withstand the downturn, their cleverness in battling the soft economy and their ability to find business underneath any rock. And some even go on the record to estimate they will post strong gains in the first half. Harper’s Bazaar’s Valerie Salembier says business at the magazine will increase 9 percent by June over the year before (Lamborghini is a new advertiser. Recession? What recession?). House Beautiful vice president and publisher Kate Kelly Smith predicts her title will post an 11 percent gain in ad pages (so much for a housing bust). Meanwhile, several health-related titles are expecting gains, some significant, by June. At Self, Kimberly Kelleher predicts the magazine will boost pages 5 percent through May and close slightly up through June. Events like its May Beauty Awards and its “Workout in the Park” consumer event helped the May issue to be Self’s biggest ever. “Luckily I haven’t had my heart in my throat,” said Kelleher. “We are really bucking the trend right now. I couldn’t pledge that this will continue through the year.”
Women’s Health brought in 68 more ad pages through April compared with last year, and is poised to increase May’s ad page total over last year (publisher Mary Murcko said she just started selling the June issue). Shape, which also had its best year ever in 2007, will post slight gains for the first half, thanks in part to a monster May issue, where the magazine welcomed new advertisers Range Rover and Mercedes-Benz, to name a few. On the men’s side, Men’s Journal, which is seeing strong spending from imported cars and pharmaceuticals, is expecting pages to increase by 16 percent by the end of the first half. Publisher Will Schenck said the magazine’s special health and fitness February issue drove a lot of business. But he also has had to work a little harder: Schenck admitted Men’s Journal can court more advertisers than others because it discounts pages (of course, any publishing company that is able to do corporate buys — including Condé Nast, Hearst and Time Inc. — offer “incentives” to major advertisers when possible. Just don’t call it discounting). — Stephanie D. Smith
MOVIE BUFFS: Rodarte sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy make no secret of the fact that they find some of their inspiration in films. Those wondering which movies they most like can find out on The Criterion Collection’s Web site, which asked the two to pick their 10 favorite films. Counting down from 10, they are “La Collectionneuse” by Eric Rohmer; “Amarcord” by Federico Fellini; “Metropolitan” by Whit Stillman; “The Silence of the Lambs” by Jonathan Demme; “Jules et Jim” by François Truffaut; “Picnic at Hanging Rock” by Peter Weir; “Fanny and Alexander” by Ingmar Bergman; “Hiroshima Mon Amour” by Alain Resnais; “In the Mood for Love” by Kar Wai Wong, and, at the top, “Beauty and the Beast” by Jean Cocteau.
Laura Mulleavy said movies play an important role at Rodarte. “I cannot think of a time where I have tried to describe a feeling or moment without referencing a film,” she said.
Case in point: the fall 2008 collection, which came out of the duo’s obsession with Japanese horror themes seen through Kabuki Theater and modern Japanese horror flicks.
“You can see the correlation between Kabuki and modern Japanese horror films in that they both discuss what is beyond the natural world, in a very minimal manner,” Kate Mulleavy said. “We were inspired by Criterion Collection films such as ‘Onibaba,’ ‘Kwaidan’ and ‘Ugetsu.'”
The duo has been working with the Criterion Collection since its first show, when it gave away a “Fanny and Alexander” DVD box set (one of the show’s dresses was inspired by a scene in the movie).
“It is probably our favorite film of all time and the Criterion edition is brilliant,” Kate Mulleavy said, adding that the list is subject to change with time.
That said, the two might be less-willing couch potatoes these days. After Vogue magazine approached the Mulleavys, they completely changed their diets and started to exercise. Kate Mulleavy lost more than 30 pounds, while her sister dropped more than 20 pounds. — Marc Karimzadeh