WINNERS AND LOSERS: The first half of this year looked positive overall for most fashion magazines, as some rebounded off of soft year-ago periods while others kept their momentum after strong performances. Of the women’s titles, Allure, Glamour and Harper’s Bazaar posted double-digit gains, even after Allure posted a 7 percent increase last year over 2005 and Glamour posted a 5 percent gain, according to Media Industry Newsletter. Allure vice president and publisher Nancy Berger Cardone said that, though beauty business is growing at a 5 percent clip, diversification of its business to nonendemic categories — automotive, food and retail — has helped the magazine boost pages. “When I started at Allure six years ago, 80 percent of our business was beauty. Now, beauty represents 57 percent of our business.” Jane also rebounded somewhat from its 41 percent decline in pages last year, as pages increased 20 percent, to 283, for the period (comparatively, Jane carried 400 ad pages in the first six months of 2005).
Women’s lifestyle titles reported strong growth. Real Simple, for example, posted a 19.8 percent gain in pages, to 897, thanks to new multiplatform investments such as its television show and updated Web site, and an extra issue in January. “That counts for 40 incremental pages this year,” said publisher Steve Sachs.
Of the leading fashion titles, Vogue posted a 5.5 percent gain in pages, to 1,323, while W posted an 8.8 percent increase, to 894. Cosmopolitan reported a 9.6 percent gain, to 932 pages, while Elle reported a 9.1 percent gain, to 1,104. Marie Claire posted a 7.9 percent gain, to 645, and Lucky saw pages grow 5.7 percent, to 820.
In Style, however, struggled a bit in the first half. Pages fell 8.4 percent in the period, to 1,490. The teen titles also felt pressure in the first six months. Seventeen, which welcomed new editor in chief Ann Shoket in January, posted a 9.5 percent decline, while Cosmogirl saw an 11.6 percent dip. Teen Vogue, the leader in the category, increased its pages 1.8 percent.
On the men’s side, Men’s Health had a much better first half than last year, when the title saw pages decline 16 percent. This year, the magazine gained the losses back and then some, posting a 22.8 percent gain, to 526, and closed the largest half in its history. The increase came in part from breaking 71 new accounts across electronics, business and financial and apparel categories. Men’s Journal posted a 14.4 percent gain, while Details posted a 10.3 percent increase. Esquire, however, didn’t do as well as last year’s 16 percent increase in pages, reporting a 7.6 percent decline for the period, to 460. Maxim, which is up for sale along with its brothers, Stuff and Blender, at Dennis Publishing, reported a 2.6 percent dip in pages, to 381. The decline follows a 16 percent drop last year. — Stephanie D. Smith
GOING HOME: Harper’s Bazaar deputy editor in chief Sarah Bailey is leaving the magazine and returning to London, where she was last the editor of British Elle. She has worked at Bazaar since 2004, and recently left on maternity leave. “I’m going back to London as I want my son to spend his early years surrounded by family,” she said through a spokeswoman, adding that she will continue to contribute to the magazine, starting with the September cover story. She plans to write for other outlets, as well. “I love to write and have spent too little time with the muse for the last three years. Once I’ve shipped my family — and baby’s extensive wardrobe — back to London, there’s a bunch of juicy writing projects I’m really looking forward to.” Margi Conklin will continue to serve as acting executive editor, though a spokeswoman was unable to say whether editor in chief Glenda Bailey would make another hire at the top. — Irin Carmon
FOOL’S GOLD: GQ pulled a fast one on its readers in its May issue. The story of a 13-year-old numbers wunderkind who manages a small town baseball team is a hoax, made up entirely from the imagination of GQ articles editor Jason Gay. The article, “The Boys of Summer,” profiles Jonathan Nettles Floyd, a child born on April 1, 1994, who is the general manager of the Ash Fork Miners, a team in the Desert Cactus Independent League. Floyd has developed a unique statistic to evaluate a player’s ability — the ISH, or infield stolen hits, and the OSH, or outfield stolen hits. Supposedly, Floyd has a nine-year-old assistant, and is being heavily courted by the New York Yankees.
But the boy, the team, the Desert Cactus Independent League and the entire story are all fake. There actually is a town called Ash Fork, population 400, just north of Phoenix, but it does not have a minor league baseball team. Instead, the players and ballpark facilities shown in the story are home to the Yuma, Ariz., Golden Baseball League, run by commissioner Kevin Outcalt. And Outcalt did more than lend his baseball field for the story. He also lent his 13-year-old son, Chris Outcalt — who is photographed as young Floyd in the piece.
“Everything’s 100 percent made up,” admitted Gay.
Those who read the story carefully will find some signals of GQ’s trickery. Floyd’s birthday is April Fool’s Day; players include Irving Clifford, second basemen George Frey and James Plimpton, and manager Billy “Stack” Stackhouse. Irving Clifford is a reference to writer Clifford Irving, best known for writing an unauthorized fake autobiography of Howard Hughes; George Frey and James Plimpton are transposed names of fake memoirist James Frey and George Plimpton, author of “The Curious Case of Sidd Finch,” a novel about a fictitious baseball pitcher with a 200 mph fastball. Stackhouse, meanwhile, references both “Candid Camera” and MTV’s prank program “Punk’d” in an “interview” with Gay. Finally, Gay’s bio at the end of the story says he is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, which he is not.
“The hard part about doing a piece like this is you want to walk that careful line between having fun with [it] and being playful and shouting fire in a crowded theater,” explained Gay. “You want to have the spoof reveal itself the deeper you read into the piece.”
Gay, incidentally, also wrote a satirical presidential background check of Stephen Colbert in the same issue. But he notes that pranking the reader will not be a regular gig. “You obviously can’t do this every month, because people will get irritated by you. You pick your spots.”
GQ will reveal the spoof to readers in its July issue. As for the June issue, Gay guarantees: “Every other word in GQ is true.” — S.D.S.
GAWKER GROWS: Gawker Media’s 14th blog, Jezebel, launches today with a focus on women, women’s media and fashion. Anna Holmes, who has worked at Star and In Style, will be managing editor, alongside former Wall Street Journal reporter Moe Tkacik as editor, and Jennifer Gerson, formerly assistant to Elle editor in chief Roberta Myers, as associate editor. In typical Gawker fashion, the new site will both aggregate content from other media and generate some new stories.
“We wanted to do something that isn’t so insider-y with regards to the media, something that, theoretically, my cousin in Ohio would read,” said Holmes. It remains to be seen how exactly that will be achieved — a glance at the test material for the site yields much overlap with Gawker and Defamer’s celebrity and media content, with a heavy pickup of fashion-industry tidbits. But Holmes also emphasized a “frustration with media directed at women, the superficiality of it all. We just kind of wanted to create something that was an antidote to all the b——t that we felt women were being fed from all corners of the globe, in terms of media.”
Gawker Media managing editor Lockhart Steele downplayed any particular marketing strategy. “There’s no special trick other than going with our gut,” he said, adding, “We think of things that would be entertaining to us. If the site grows a large audience, there will be advertisers….Gawker sites tend to succeed or fail on whether they’re a good site.” He pointed out the company has shut down three of its sites. Still, there’s one strategic move that’s a bit more in line with traditional media: “We’re shifting to a place on all the Gawker sites to a world where we should be breaking news and getting exclusives all the time.”
The site will cover beauty and fashion, celebrities and relationships — all traditional women’s magazine fodder — but with a satirical tone. “When I took the job, I had to assume I would never work for a women’s magazine again,” said Holmes. “If I approached it with trepidation about who I was going to p–s off, I wouldn’t be doing my job right.” — I.C.