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Memo Pad: Bloggers Not Bitten… Another Look… New Cutter

Oprah Winfrey's power to publicize an author, a star or a designer is legendary, so naturally she was promised an exclusive on the unveiling of Sarah Jessica Parker's new Bitten line for mass chain retailer Steve & Barry's.

BLOGGERS NOT BITTEN: Oprah Winfrey‘s power to publicize an author, a star or a designer is legendary, so naturally she was promised an exclusive on the unveiling of Sarah Jessica Parker‘s new Bitten line for mass chain retailer Steve & Barry’s. But last week, Gawker founding editor Elizabeth Spiers’ new blog site, Fashionista, published photographs from a password-protected area of a preliminary Bitten Web site intended only for long-lead-time monthly magazines. When attorneys from Steve & Barry’s requested Fashionista remove the photos, it did, but by then dozens of other blogs had already posted images, giving plenty of potential customers the chance to put in their two cents.

“I always thought SJP had great personal style, now I see she had a great personal stylist! They look a lot like those clothes she modeled for those Gap ads she did a while back, especially those cuffed jeans!” said one commentator on Fashionista.

On other sites, readers praised the “Sex and the City” star for making affordable fashion for the masses instead of inking a potentially more lucrative contract elsewhere. Parker has said she was drawn to the low-cost retailer because she grew up one of eight children in a family that faced financial difficulties.

The next day, Fashionista blogger Faran Krentcil received an anonymous e-mail from a tipster who claimed to work with the Bitten team and said they are trying to redesign the pieces. The e-mailer speculated the change-up had perhaps been prompted by the online storm of criticism. A few hours after Fashionista published the photographs, the password-protected area of the Bitten Web site disappeared, so the images are no longer available to the press.

“We are not changing a thing in the line,” said Howard Schacter, chief partnership officer for Steve & Barry’s. “We are incredibly excited about it. The Bitten line is several hundred pieces, we’re thrilled with it, and nothing is being changed or added as a result of anything that’s transpired over the last few weeks.” He acknowledged an unnamed media outlet was promised an exclusive — and still has it — but declined to specify further. A spokeswoman for Harpo Productions, Winfrey’s production company, said the Sarah Jessica Parker line will be on the show but said she did not have a confirmed air date.

This story first appeared in the March 27, 2007 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Krentcil, for her part, praised the line and said she would wear it, but allowed it didn’t have a recognizable “signature look” like other high-low efforts, such as Madonna for H&M or Proenza Schouler for Target. “And that was disappointing,” she said.

Budget fashion expert and author Kathryn Finney, who also blogged about Bitten, had a different take: “It’s too fashion-forward for the Steve & Barry’s customer but not fashion-forward enough to bring in a new customer.” — Cate T. Corcoran

ANOTHER LOOK: Though American Media Inc.’s restatement revealed a $160 million net loss, a write-down of its assets and the fact that the Securities and Exchange Commission is conducting an informal inquiry into its restatement — which AMI is complying with — analysts weren’t too surprised by the financials. In fact, the value of AMI’s high-yield bonds remained flat on Monday because the company’s earnings were in line with analysts’ expectations. The bonds yielded 13.33 percent on Monday, versus a market average of 7.39 percent.

AMI took a charge of $147 million relating to the impairment of trade names and goodwill of National Enquirer, Star, Weekly World News, Country Weekly, National Examiner, Sun and MiniMag. While that sum seemed high, one analyst said the charge “raises a red flag, but is pretty normal for a [struggling] company like AMI.” Analysts said companies regularly write down the value of assets if their future value is no longer what they’d previously assumed. And as AMI stated in the release: “These determinations were primarily the result of a change in management’s expectations of long-term cash flows attributable to expected future circulation declines and unexpected underperformance during fiscal year 2006.”

Aside from the devaluing of AMI’s assets, analysts showed more concern over how long chief executive officer David Pecker would be in charge of AMI if the company’s losses keep growing. That said, some analysts believed there could be a financial upside to his departure. Said one: “It could present a buying opportunity for those that know the company inside and out.”— Stephanie D. Smith and Amy Wicks

NEW CUTTER: After more than a decade at Dennis Publishing, The Week publisher Carolyn Kremins is returning to Condé Nast as the vice president and publisher of Cookie. Before riding the lad-mag wave as publisher of Stuff and Maxim and taking over The Week, Kremins worked at House & Garden and Bon Appetit. Her predecessor, Eva Dillon, launched the title in November 2005 under Fairchild Publications. Having seen the parenting and lifestyle magazine through a transition to 4 Times Square under a reorganized Condé Nast, Dillon decamped earlier this month to serve as president and group publisher of Reader’s Digest under her close associate, former Fairchild chief executive officer Mary Berner.

The Week, widely considered to be owner Felix Dennis‘ pet project, is apparently the only title he has not put on the block; the possible sale was officially announced last month, after months of speculation. Meanwhile, Cookie is growing: Next year, it will go from six to 10 times a year and will raise its rate base for the July-August issue from 300,000 to 400,000. The magazine got another boost this month when it was named a finalist for general excellence in its circulation category, in its first year of eligibility. Kremins and her editorial counterpart, Pilar Guzman, are already acquainted — in fact, in 2002, Guzman featured Kremins and her husband in a pre-Cookie article in The New York Times. — Irin Carmon