EARLY LOOK AT NUMBERS: For most magazines, circulation figures in publishing have flattened in recent years, with single-copy sales especially challenged as consumers spend more time away from the newsstands and in front of other distractions, like their computer screens. Though figures for 2008’s second half won’t be available until mid-February from the Audit Bureau of Circulations, a cursory look at newsstand data through November posted on ABC’s Rapid Report provides some hints. O, The Oprah Magazine, Glamour, W, Marie Claire and Teen Vogue all posted double-digit declines in single-copy sales for those five months (December issues weren’t available as of Friday).
Oprah Winfrey’s eponymous magazine sold a million fewer copies for the five issues in the period, a 26 percent drop in sales compared with 2007. During that time, the title appointed a new editor in chief, Susan Reed, and its cover strategy changed to some extent. In recent weeks, Winfrey revealed on television and in the magazine’s January issue that she felt so insecure about having gained back 40 pounds last year that she never allowed her full body to be photographed for any of the covers. (Perhaps readers wanted to see more of her anyway, no matter what her size.)
Teen Vogue is facing a 23 percent drop in single-copy sales for the same five issues, and Glamour, which underwent a makeover in August to help reenergize the title, sold 614,000 fewer issues from July to November, a 16 percent decline. Through November, W was on track to sell 14 percent fewer copies than last year, while Marie Claire was tracking to sell 11 percent fewer and Cosmopolitan was on pace to sell 10 percent less. Sales of Elle through November were off 7 percent compared with the same period in 2007, Vogue was off 5 percent and Lucky was down 4 percent.
Nevertheless, some positive news could emerge: Vanity Fair sold 84,000 more issues for the five months than in 2007. And In Style, which also unveiled a redesign this fall, was tracking up slightly compared with a year ago. — Stephanie D. Smith
AMI GOES LATE: Leave it to American Media Inc. to issue a quarterly filing late on a Friday evening. The company reported results for its fiscal quarter ending Sept. 30, and said operating revenue was down 2.4 percent to $128.8 million, due to overall market weakness in ad spending from the current economic slowdown. Operating income was also down, to $28.9 million from $31.3 million, and the company reported net income of $623,000, compared to a $17.7 million loss the prior year.
AMI is currently in payment default on the 10.25 percent notes due in May 2009 and technical default on covenants on its term loan. To address this, there is a deal before bondholders revealed on Friday to offer approximately $21 million of 9 percent senior PIK (payment in kind) notes to mature in 2013, combined with $300 million of 14 percent senior subordinated notes due in 2013. In addition, bondholders could receive 5.7 million shares of AMI common stock. The company entered into a forbearance agreement with lenders and bondholders, preventing a potential bankruptcy filing until Feb. 4.
Not all was doom and gloom, though: AMI is increasing the frequency of its Country Weekly magazine to 52 times a year, from 26 times a year, and lowering the cover price to $2.49 from $3.49.
Meanwhile, Meredith Corp. wasn’t the only magazine publisher to issue pink slips last week; more layoffs took place at Wenner Media and American Media Inc. Sources said approximately a dozen staffers were let go from AMI’s Star magazine, including three from the art department. A spokesman declined to comment. Sources close to the company also said a few edit staffers from Fit Pregnancy were laid off; a spokeswoman did not comment by press time. Over at Wenner, a spokesman confirmed that “companywide” layoffs took place and 12 or so people were let go. — Amy Wicks
HEIDI’S HAUL: The “Project Runway” legal defense fund bulked up a bit last week. On Thursday, a judge in U.S. District Court in Manhattan ordered designer Cynthia Rodriguez and buyer-merchandiser Elizabeth Marie Anne Zwiebach to pay $50,000 in attorneys’ fees to Heidi Klum, Miramax Film Corp. and other co-defendants in a copyright suit the two brought in 2005. Rodriguez and Zwiebach had accused Klum and company of stealing their idea for a fashion reality show called “American Runway.” Last September, Judge Loretta Preska deemed that “Project Runway” had been independently created and ruled in favor of Klum and her television partners. In a new order, dated Jan. 7, Preska took Rodriguez and Zwiebach to task for pursuing the suit two years after it was clear to the court that doing so was “objectively unreasonable” and ordered them to pay the legal fees. Of course, lawyers are likely to be the only people seeing any “Project Runway”-related income for a while. Amongst the co-defendants splitting the $50,000 are The Weinstein Co. and NBC Universal, currently locked in their own legal clash over the show’s attempt to jump from Bravo to Lifetime. — Matthew Lynch