NEW YORK — California already is a state of excess, so it should be no surprise that there are an excessive number of magazines devoted to its constituent parts.
But now, thanks to a group of wealthy backers, there is about to be a title devoted to the entire state, specifically its richest residents. The magazine, called C, will make its debut in September with a distribution of 150,000 copies, to be sold throughout the country, but primarily in California. Behind the launch is a trio of publishing veterans: Jennifer Smith Hale, president and editorial director of Santa Barbara magazine, will be C’s chairman; Jack Rotherham, former publisher of Teen People and Rolling Stone, will be vice president and publisher, and Michael Coady, former president and chief executive of Fairchild Publications, parent of WWD, will be its president and editorial director. Smith Hale’s family, which owns Santa Barbara magazine and a number of television stations, is backing the launch, and a private equity firm has also made what is said to be a seven-figure investment.
Smith Hale got her introduction to publishing in 2000 when she relaunched Santa Barbara, increasing its frequency from four to six times a year and shifting its emphasis from service to lifestyle. The title’s circulation more than doubled, to 40,000, and it went from losing money to turning a significant profit, Smith Hale said.
She said she was intrigued by the idea of replicating Santa Barbara’s success elsewhere, but “the idea of doing all these small magazines seemed overwhelming.” She felt there was an opportunity for a publication that showcased the best of Californian-flavored fashion, home design, food and travel, for an audience of affluent women. “I know these people,” she said. “They’re my friends. They’re my family friends. We know their lifestyle.”
California is certainly a tempting target, with more than 12 percent of the country’s population and a disproportionate share of its wealth, as evidenced by a statistic Coady likes to cite: Of the homes in the U.S. worth more than $1 million, 41 percent are in California.
Its influence on the culture is also disproportionate, California being the home not only of Hollywood but also of countless food and fitness fads.
But the state’s residents are hardly without their pick of high-end lifestyle magazines tailored to their tastes. Chicago-based Modern Luxury Media publishes titles in Los Angeles and San Diego, while Niche Media, which owns Gotham and Hamptons, publishes Los Angeles Confidential and has announced plans for a counterpart in San Francisco. Both companies have been aggressively expanding of late, trying to keep pace with rapid growth in spending by luxury marketers. There’s also Los Angeles magazine, with a circulation of 150,000, and Time Inc.’s Sunset, which caters to the entire West and has a circulation of more than 1.4 million.
Still, Niche Media chairman Jason Binn said he believed there was room for another magazine to succeed, “as long as the publication can deliver the right eyeballs, the right readers, and help drive local business.”
Binn, like many luxury publishers, relies on a controlled-circulation model to deliver those much-sought-after eyeballs to his magazines. C, somewhat more ambitiously, will try to reach them on the newsstand, with a relatively steep cover price of $4.95. Also ambitious is the title’s frequency of 10 times a year; most new magazines begin by publishing quarterly or bimonthly.
Rotherham argues that C will win over advertisers that currently have to buy space in a slew of city-based titles to cover the California market. He estimates that a single ad page in C, costing $15,000, will have the same reach as a multititle buy that would cost $40,000.
That argument seemed to work on Michael Gould, chairman and ceo of Bloomingdale’s, and one of the first fashion and retail executives to see C’s presentation. He said he was particularly impressed by Smith Hale’s turnaround of Santa Barbara and her understanding of the market. “I thought it was a terrific concept,” he said.