LUCKY TO BE ALIVE: Lucky magazine staffers on Thursday were reassured — repeatedly — that they would not lose their jobs.
This story first appeared in the April 25, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Following a speculative item about the publication’s demise on the New York Post Web site Wednesday night, Lucky editor in chief Eva Chen sent out a memo to staff Thursday morning attempting to assuage their fears, as did Lucky’s publisher, Gillian Gorman Round — even Condé Nast chief executive officer Charles Townsend sent out his own note. His was addressed to Lucky’s business executives, Condé president Robert Sauerberg and to both Chen and Round, not edit staff.
The e-mails would normally be out of the ordinary, considering the amount of speculative items published on a daily basis, but this particular rumor has had legs. It’s been no secret that Lucky magazine has been struggling. Last summer, Brandon Holley was let go after a two-and-a-half year stint as editor in chief. Holley was succeeded by Chen, a young, social media savvy beauty editor who cut her teeth at Teen Vogue.
Chen, who has been described as a young protégé of Condé Nast artistic director Anna Wintour, has faced an uphill climb since she took the helm at the magazine. Her first issue in September, featuring Blake Lively, was down 4 percent on the newsstand, totaling 143,644, the Alliance for Audited Media said. Chen also came under fire for her less-than-flattering December/January Kerry Washington cover, which was photographed by Patrick Demarchelier and styled by Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele.
But on Thursday she rallied her editorial team, noting that news of Lucky “finally” folding are not only “recycled rumors from years past,” but “they are wrong.” Lucky’s May issue was up 18.7 percent and for February through May, the publication is up 2 percent in paging, the editor said, explaining that it outpaced the competition, which logged a 6.2 percent decline in May and a 4.2 percent dip in the four-month period. Chen also noted that Lucky is up 3 percent in subscriptions from December of last year over December 2012.
“This is all due to YOUR amazing work and the visibility, passion and life you have all breathed into this magazine,” Chen wrote. “So, keep up the great work — and just know that haters are going to hate.” She ended her e-mail with a YouTube link to the song “Bad Boys for Life” by Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs, an apparent anthem of sorts for the shopping-inspired magazine.
That may all be true, but Lucky posted ad page declines of 4.1 percent to 72.43 pages in October, 25 percent in November to 62.73 pages and 23.5 percent in December to 87.64 pages, according to the Media Industry Newsletter. The magazine, which doesn’t publish in January, picked up some steam in February with ad pages up 24.2 percent to 52.33 pages, but pages slid 14.4 percent in March to 87.76 pages and 5.2 percent in April to 62.51 pages.
Publisher Round circulated her own memo to Lucky staff, calling the news reports “unsubstantiated” and “speculative rubbish about where Eva might go.” The Post mused that Chen would go back to Teen Vogue, but didn’t elaborate.
“This business is in a position of strength in an extraordinarily challenged market,” Round said, telling staffers to “plough on and show the idiots and haters what we really can do!”
For his part, Townsend said “no one is more proud of the accomplishments at Lucky than Bob [Sauerberg] and I are…in a year where challenges abound.”
The ceo said he holds the magazine up as an “example” of how it can be done in a struggling economy.
“The uninformed feel the need to stir debate…particularly if their own circumstances are less than exemplary,” he concluded.