NEW YORK — It had to happen sooner or later.
After spending eight years pouring her personality into her eponymously named magazine, Jane Pratt is stepping down as editor in chief of Jane. Fairchild Publications (parent of WWD) said yesterday that Pratt, 42, will depart at the end of September. Her successor has not been determined, but whoever gets the job will continue to edit a magazine called Jane.
“For some people, it works really well to edit one magazine for 30 years, 40 years, whatever,” Pratt said Monday, shortly after breaking the news to her staff. “I’m not someone who usually imagines that I’m going to do something for six months, let alone eight years. It just felt like the right time to make a change.”
But it appears the decision was not entirely hers. Asked who initiated the discussion of her departure, both Pratt and Fairchild president and chief executive officer Mary G. Berner declined to say. “We’ve been talking about this for months,” said Berner. She added that the transition was timed to take advantage of a period of growth, notably a 15.6 percent increase in newsstand sales recorded in the first half of the year. “This is a magazine right now that is doing very well.”
But perhaps not as well as its owners would like? Ad pages have been flat this year, totaling 577 through September, and the surge in newsstand sales came only after Jane reduced its cover price from $3.50 to $1.99 at the start of 2005. Circulation analyst John Harrington said it is rare for an established magazine to cut its price, let alone by 43 percent. “It’s usually regarded as a desperate measure,” he said.
Although the increase in single-copy sales volume has not been enough to make up for the loss in revenue, that was never the point, said Berner. “It’s a way to bring in new readers, frankly,” she insisted. “What we’ve found is that [newsstand buyers] convert nicely [to subscribers].”
Speaking of subscribers, the question now is how loyal readers will react to Pratt’s departure. Pratt, whose personal experiences and tastes have always been a wellspring for the magazine, said she believed readers would want to see that a transition has her blessing.
“I think certainly some continuity is important,” she said, adding that she will remain on the masthead as founding editor. “I still may contribute from time to time. From that perspective, I think the readers won’t feel that I’ve abandoned them completely.”
Berner said she would not necessarily be looking for another cult-of-personality editor to take over. “It’s got to be someone who gets the gestalt of a twentysomething woman,” she said. That does not necessarily mean it will be a woman, however, she noted. (In fact, according to sources at Fairchild, Joe Zee, then fashion director of W, was briefly considered as a potential replacement before he was put in charge of Vitals, which launched in 2004.) The search is still in its preliminary phase, Berner said. “When you can’t say what the job is, you don’t make a lot of progress with the interviews.”
Pratt, meanwhile, said she expects to announce news of her next venture, or ventures, in a month or so. For now, all she will say is that the offers she is considering do not involve print magazines. “But they still fall under the realm of talking to women the way they talk about the things that matter to them.”