THE NEW ASME TEAM: Members of the American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME) are about to get tired of seeing one another’s faces, what with the steady lineup of events culminating in the National Magazine Awards tonight. At an ASME lunch Wednesday, Runner’s World editor in chief and Running Times editorial director David Willey was officially elected as president, replacing Glamour editor in chief Cindi Leive, and the board elected three new members: Larry Hackett, managing editor of People; James B. Meigs, editor in chief of Popular Mechanics, and Diane Salvatore, editor in chief of Ladies’ Home Journal.
All this took place atop the Hearst Tower, just before a panel on political coverage moderated by NBC’s Brian Williams, who remarked, “Being here reminds us from NBC of our Dunder-Mifflin third-floor newsroom.” (Extra points for the NBC sitcom plug).
The panel, featuring The New Republic’s Michelle Cottle, Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi and The Nation’s Katrina vanden Heuvel, alternated between outright befuddlement at the unpredictability of the election narrative and hand-wringing at some of the coverage. “The ABC debate touched a nerve,” said vanden Heuvel. “It came to represent the debasement of a media system that is failing to inform.” Williams, in partial defense of his own home network and cable news channel, asked how the argument could be made in today’s world that not enough information is out there. Vanden Heuvel in turn cited the phrase, “an orgy of multiplatfornication,” indicating that the volume and ubiquity of information didn’t indicate that people were better-informed about what matters. Taibbi agreed, saying, “Voters take their cues about what to take seriously from us, the media.”
— Irin Carmon
THANKFUL FOR THE WEB: The Internet certainly came to the rescue at Time Inc. in the first quarter. In Time Warner Inc.’s first-quarter earnings call on Wednesday, chief executive officer Jeff Bewkes noted Time Inc. is the only division that has been negatively impacted by the bad economy — but online ad revenues were able to offset the poor performance of the company’s print advertising. The division’s overall revenues were essentially flat at $1 billion, boosted by online sales at people.com and CNNMoney.com.
No wonder Time Inc. doesn’t plan to postpone any of its digital initiatives for the balance of the year, which will include a redesign of Real Simple’s Web site in the fall. John Squires, executive vice president, Time Inc., said Wednesday that in the next few years, the company wants digital to represent 20 to 30 percent of each title’s bottom line.
A few hours after its earnings were released, Squires, along with executives and editors from instyle.com, SI.com and CNNMoney.com, provided an update on the progress made so far. Amy Keohane, senior vice president, In Style digital, and Gail Horwood, executive director, instyle.com, said that year-over-year (as of March), the site is up 128 percent in page views, to 61 million on average and visitors spend more minutes (9.7) browsing instyle.com than the sites for Allure, Elle, Style.com, Marie Claire and Glamour, which had visitors spending an average of 9.4 minutes, according to Media Metrix, from January 2007 through February 2008.
A redesigned video channel is coming in the second quarter for instyle.com and a celebrity makeup match, which allows visitors to buy products and get tips and trend information. Magazine readers can now also shop the site by each issue. Since November, its shopping channel has generated $2.5 million in retail revenue.
— Amy Wicks
PEDDLING PILLS?: What does an out of work fashion director do between gigs? How about judging design contests as a fashion guru for the best dressed…birth control case? That’s what Nina Garcia’s next project is, according to a press release on Wednesday from Yaz unveiling its “Step Up and Go Beyond” contest. The contest, a partnership with nonprofit group Step Up Women’s Network and Bayer HealthCare Pharamaceuticals, calls on “designer hopefuls everywhere to submit contemporary and fashionable packaging concepts for the oral contraceptive.” The winner will get $10,000 and be revealed around the time of New York Fashion Week.
But what does Garcia know about package design? According to her quotes in the release, the package is like a designer wallet. “We’re taking an iconic accessory — the birth control case — and asking aspiring designers to take a shot at redesigning it into a chic, more sophisticated carrying case that they could slip into their purses,” said Garcia. The release also lists her qualifications, including her public relations gig at Perry Ellis, and her experience at Elle and Mirabella, as well as her participation in “Project Runway.”
Is the former editor just hedging her bets in case her relationship with Elle is completely severed? Talks are said to be continuing with the magazine on whether she’ll take an at-large position until Elle’s contract with “Project Runway” expires at the end of season five. Meanwhile, fashion insiders were buzzing at spotting Garcia exiting the Hearst Tower, causing some to wonder if she was interviewing for a job at Harper’s Bazaar. A spokeswoman for the magazine said: “The editors of Harper’s Bazaar really like and respect Nina, but she was not here to meet with them.”
— Stephanie D. Smith
MEN ARE FROM VENUS, WOMEN ARE FROM MARS: As it turns out, it’s not easy to fill a room with men’s magazine editors willing to pay $125 to hear from editors in chief over dinner, so Mediabistro made its first foray into a men’s magazine-oriented networking dinner with a “Skirts and Slacks” combination: three editors in chief of men’s magazines (Playboy, Maxim and Details) and three from women’s (Marie Claire, Glamour and Elle, with executive editor Alex Postman filling in for Robbie Myers, on set at “Ugly Betty” for a cameo). In the panel on the magazine gender divide, Postman observed that while women’s magazines tended to a politically correct tone, men’s magazines delighted in outrageousness and political incorrectness. She could have been describing the panel — Postman, Marie Claire’s Joanna Coles and Glamour’s Cindi Leive didn’t mince words, per se, but they did publicly give each other’s magazines the benefit of the doubt and talk collectively, while the men’s magazine editors kept it lively with shots at absent competitors. Playboy’s Chris Napolitano joked about Esquire putting George Clooney on the cover “every other month,” and Maxim’s Jim Kaminsky ribbed GQ for a Mitt Romney story that appeared after he had left the race. (Details’ Dan Peres abstained, and pointed out that fact from the dais.)
The men’s editors conceded their titles had edged towards women’s territory with increasing service coverage, and Leive said women’s magazines had adopted the humor, or at least the light tone, once reserved for men’s magazines. But when it came to what Coles termed “the lipstick and slavery alongside each other” dilemma, she said that was a function of women’s complex and contradictory lives. And, she told the men on the panel, the juxtaposition of service and seriousness was increasingly going to be their problem as men became more “beholden to product usage.”