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ABC SPELLS OUT CHANGES: Expect big news today from the Audit Bureau of Circulations. The group’s board met over the weekend and hammered out rule changes that could have a major effect on magazine circulation practices going forward. The main changes have to do with how public place subscriptions — a source of several recent circulation scandals — are classified. In the future, to qualify as paid, sponsored copies must by underwritten by companies with a business-to-consumer relationship, according to a source familiar with the ABC board’s deliberations. Subscriptions that don’t meet this definition — most of the copies now sent to beauty salons and doctors’ waiting rooms — will be classified as qualified or analyzed, rather than paid.

The ABC board also voted not to allow exceptions granted to publishers who participated in subscription programs run by two subscription agents, Ebsco and In-Flight, and to rescind any exception already granted. Those votes mean thousands of copies already reported as paid will be reclassified by auditors. ABC will host a conference call today to announce the rule changes.
— Jeff Bercovici

MADONNA AND CHILDREN: Just as the Metropolitan Museum of Art competed with the Louvre last year for Duccio’s “Madonna and Child,” so too Vogue recently vied with Vanity Fair for Madonna and children.

The mutable pop star and her daughter Lourdes Leon and son Rocco Ritchie appear on the August cover of Vogue, but the shoot almost never happened, according to sources at Condé Nast. For starters, Vanity Fair was evidently wooing Madonna to do its cover instead, perhaps even right up until the last minute, though Madonna’s publicist, Liz Rosenberg, said it wasn’t quite as dramatic as that. “I had some conversations with Vanity Fair,” Rosenberg said. But, she added, “this story has been discussed with Vogue for close to four years. We decided to go with them because they have a history with this house.” She was referring to the shoot’s backdrop, Ashcombe House, Madonna and Guy Ritchie‘s country estate in Britain, which was once the residence of Vogue photographer Cecil Beaton.

This story first appeared in the July 19, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Rosenberg also said a touch-and-go moment back in April when Madonna nearly backed out of the Vogue story had nothing to do with Vanity Fair. “The only problem was with the date,” she said. “We wanted to shoot it when the house looked its best and the flowers were in bloom.” That, for the horticulturally curious, is in May.

Vanity Fair, meanwhile, tried Scarlett Johansson for its August cover but switched gears again and ended up going with Martha Stewart, a decision that at least generated a fair amount of press for the magazine. (Johansson still appears inside in a portfolio shot by Annie Leibovitz.)

Since Madonna currently has nothing to promote, she might seem an unusual choice for Vogue’s August cover, the age issue, typically a strong seller for the magazine. But Rosenberg said her client has been gradually raising her profile starting with the Live 8 concert to prepare for her new album’s release in November. Asked if Madonna would be on another magazine cover then, she said, “I hope so, but we don’t have anything planned at the moment.”

The August issue of Vogue goes on sale in New York and Los Angeles this Thursday and hits newsstands nationally next week. (Like WWD, Condé Nast, Vogue and Vanity Fair are part of Advance Publications Inc.)
— Sara James

: John Byrne certainly knows how to make a dramatic exit. Days after essentially saving the jobs of everyone on his staff, Byrne is leaving Fast Company, where he’s been editor in chief since 2003, to return to Business Week. There, he’ll be executive editor overseeing the magazine, a new post created as part of a reorganization announced Monday.

The employees he leaves behind will no doubt remember him fondly. After Fast Company went on the block in May, the title’s demise seemed all but certain, with reports saying any of the potential buyers would most likely fold it. Byrne personally persuaded Morningstar chairman Joe Mansueto to buy both Fast Company and Inc. and keep them going. “This was not an easy decision for me,” he said of leaving. “We’ve gone through a difficult time, and whenever people go through a difficult time together, you really get close to each other.” Mark Vamos, who was executive editor, has been named acting editor in chief.

As it happens, Byrne, who spent 18 years at Business Week before taking over Fast Company, almost ended up back at the weekly eight months ago. He was among those considered for editor in chief but was ultimately passed over in favor of the Wall Street Journal’s Steve Adler. “I never threw my hat in the ring,” Byrne said of the top job. “It just ended up there.”
— J.B.

OUT OF MANY, ONE: After a months-long search for a new editor in chief, Essence decided to keep it in the family, in more ways than one. Angela Burt-Murray comes to the post from being executive editor at Teen People, which, like Essence, is part of Time Inc. She’s also a former Essence hand herself, having worked there from 1998 to 2001.

Burt-Murray’s predecessor, Diane Weathers, left back in March. Essence editorial director Susan L. Taylor said it has taken her since then to sift through the extraordinary number of candidates who put themselves forward for the job. “There are a lot of really talented African-American women in this industry who’ve not been recognized, who’ve not been promoted,” she said. “So when this job opened up, a large group of people believed that if it didn’t happen for them at Essence, they would never become a chief anywhere.”

Added Burt-Murray, “It’s a dream to go back and work with Susan.”
— J.B.

FASHION AT THE FESTIVAL: The schedule for The New Yorker’s sixth annual New Yorker Festival — September 23-25 in New York City — is close to finalized. This year, in addition to panels like “Anarchy and Animation,” with Trey Parker and Matt Stone of “South Park” and Brad Bird of “The Incredibles,” there will be readings from Michael Chabon, Nicole Krauss, Ian McEwan and Marilynne Robinson and performances from The Roots, Sleater-Kinney, Rufus Wainwright and Gillian Welch. Fashion’s own Tara Subkoff of Imitation of Christ and Behnaz Sarafpour will also sit down with American designers for a round table called “Young Designers.” The full schedule will be posted at come August.
— S.J.

THREE DAYS IN THE LIFE: Fed up with your life of toil in the Condé Nast salt mines? Just think: You might be living someone else’s dream. Specifically, someone named Aswan Boudreaux, who spent three days last week hanging around the offices of Cargo magazine after winning a contest sponsored by Yahoo! HotJobs. (And no, second prize wasn’t four days at Cargo.)

The contest offered a taste of one of eight different jobs. Other choices included shadowing designer Cynthia Rowley, chasing celebrity gossip at Star and exploring the latest advances in chocolate technology at Godiva. Boudreaux, who lives in San Francisco and holds a master’s degree in new media, opted for Cargo because of her interest in mass communications. She came to New York hoping to learn more about “how organizations target their audience, how they’re making sort of a passive medium interactive with the user base.”

Cargo’s editor in chief, Ariel Foxman, prepared an itinerary for her that, while not quite addressing those questions, at least kept her busy: She got to test an MP3 player, create a signature scent at Bond No. 9 and preview Bloomingdale’s holiday offerings. “I didn’t want her to come here and sit all day looking over someone’s shoulder as they copyedited,” he said.

Boudreaux also had a one-on-one lunch with Foxman in Condé Nast’s Frank Gehry-designed cafeteria. “What I liked about him is that he’s very down-to-earth and approachable,” she said. In fact, she experienced none of the legendary Condé Nast hauteur. “People were very open, very warm.”

As for whether the pleasures of working at Cargo can compete with gourmet confections, Foxman said if he were Boudreaux, “I certainly would rather be at Godiva. But at least they gave her chocolates at Bloomingdale’s.”
— J.B.

RETURN OF THE INTERN: Harper’s Bazaar has named a replacement for market director Amanda Ross, who’s moving to Los Angeles. The job will go to Nicole Fritton, who has been working at Glamour for the past six years, most recently as fashion market editor. Fritton got her start in fashion as an intern at Bazaar in 1994. She starts Aug. 1.
— J.B.

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