PAPER PUSHERS: The closing of House & Garden came as little surprise to those who follow the purse strings at Condé Nast. For one, the magazine has hemorrhaged close to an estimated $100 million over the last decade, according to sources, and had some of the highest editorial production costs among the company’s magazines, save for Vogue and several others. Couple that will advertising pages that had stalled at around 800 pages a year, and the economics of its publication were unsustainable, sources said. It’s generally believed that a mature magazine at Condé Nast finds 1,000 to 1,200 ad pages to be a sweet spot. “If you’re not there, you’re not a business,” Condé Nast chairman chief executive officer Charles Townsend told the New York Post Tuesday. “You’re just shuffling money around.”
So which remaining titles don’t fit that yardstick? Observers said magazines likely to sit below 1,000 ad pages this year include Cookie, Elegant Bride, Men’s Vogue, Golf for Women and Domino. But many of these carry caveats to Townsend’s rule of thumb — Cookie, Men’s Vogue and Domino are still in launch mode; Golf for Women publishes six issues a year, and Elegant Bride is a quarterly. Cookie’s pages are up 35 percent to 428; the bimonthly title will increase to 10 issues next year. Men’s Vogue went from three to eight issues this year, and grew ad pages 73 percent to 472.
Domino, meanwhile, has been publishing 10 issues annually for the last two years and reported flat ad page growth through the first three quarters, to 468 pages. As a result, insiders wonder whether the magazine will be the next shelter title to go under the microscope.
Beth Brenner, Domino’s vice president and publisher, remained nonplussed Tuesday. “Can I say to you the housing market has affected this magazine? Sure,” she said. “I’m not worried about it at all because my revenue is so pronounced, and my rate base is so pronounced. We’re the fastest growing and one of the only growing properties in the category.” Domino will raise its rate base to 750,000 by next year from its current 625,000. As for 2008, Brenner expects growth in pages from advertisers that may come from House & Garden and from nonendemic categories including automotive, beauty, retail and technology. “I think we would have passed House & Garden next year, in our third full year,” she said, which means she expects Domino to add at least another 200 ad pages in 2008 — which would get it very close to Townsend’s magic number. — Stephanie D. Smith
WHERE WILL THEY GO?: All those adult ads in New York magazine will have to find another home. Two days before a planned protest by the National Organization for Women’s New York chapter, New York magazine is “getting out of the sex business entirely,” said a spokeswoman for the magazine Tuesday. “This is a full housecleaning.”
NOW estimated New York magazine draws about $10,000 a weekly issue, figures on which the magazine declined to comment. The spokeswoman also refused to discuss the organization’s contention in earlier press releases that the title “explicitly make[s] the distinction between legitimate spas and illegal massage parlors by featuring two separate ad categories and by charging up to three times the normal rate for the illegal businesses.”
NOW-NYC president Sonia Ossorio told WWD the group received a call Monday to meet with publisher Larry Burstein. The Tuesday meeting effectively ended both the protest and New York’s acceptance of adult advertising, licensed and unlicensed.
“I can’t comment on our timing other than to say it’s the right thing to do,” said the spokeswoman, who confirmed the meeting. She said New York had started accepting adult advertising in the late Nineties. “The magazine is prospering now, so it’s finally time to get out of a business we were never comfortable about
being in,” she said — except, of course, when it needed the revenue.
In March, Time Out New York and smaller local publications like The Brooklyn Paper and Avenue signed NOW’s pledge to refuse to profit from trafficking. Time Out publisher Marisa Fariña said the magazine hadn’t dropped adult advertising “because we never had it,” and that massage parlors are required to fax in copies of their licenses in order to advertise. The New York Press said in August that it would drop the category, though The Village Voice has held out.
New York magazine hasn’t signed the pledge but, according to NOW, will help fight sex trafficking in New York — although just how remains vague for now. Starting this week, it will cease accepting sex-related ads, and by January, they will be gone entirely.
So far, NOW has limited its efforts to print — curious, given Craigslist and other Web sites have for years been key instruments of the sex trade. “We haven’t thought much about Craigslist, to be honest with you,” Ossorio said. — Irin Carmon
PAPER TRAIL: News LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton had purchased financial daily Les Echos from Britain’s Pearson plc appeared in most French newspapers on Tuesday — except Les Echos. The newspaper didn’t publish as workers went on strike to protest the takeover. On Tuesday, they paraded in front of Les Echos’ Paris headquarters with banners declaring, “Independence is not a luxury.” A majority later voted to continue striking today, despite assurances from the company it would entrench measures to ensure editorial independence into the statutes of the company. These measures include an ethical charter and an 11-member supervisory board with three independent members. Additional meetings between management and workers were slated for today. — Diane Lazar