BLUEPRINT TO PRESS: After six months of politely putting off questions about a new lifestyle magazine for young women, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia is expected to announce today that it is finally moving forward with the project — although the company isn’t calling it a launch.
Two test issues of Blueprint: Design Your Life are planned for this year, the first in May and a second in August, with an initial rate base of 250,000. MSLO anticipates publishing six more in 2007. According to its publisher, the magazine is intended to help women aged 25 to 45 “decide how to decorate, dress, entertain and organize their lives.”
“It’s been 15 years [since we launched Martha Stewart Living]. A lot has changed in the world in terms of how people manage their time,” said MSLO editorial director Margaret Roach. She added the primary difference between Blueprint and the company flagship would be that Blueprint would offer a “broader range of style,” encompassing fashion, beauty, health, fitness, travel, technology and culture. Roach also said some of the magazine’s how-to advice would inevitably be “simpler” than the famously complicated Martha Stewart Living.
In other words, Blueprint will be about as close a competitor to Time Inc. juggernaut Real Simple as that magazine has yet had to face on newsstands.
Tom Prince, MSLO’s development editor who oversaw the test phase of the project and was widely thought to be the first choice for editor if and when it got the go-ahead, will instead remain development editor of MSLO on the masthead. The top job has gone to Rebecca Thuss, a former style director of Martha Stewart Weddings, who was part of a team that won an American Society of Magazine Editors award for general excellence last year.
“It’s a magazine about developing personal style, intended to hit a sweet spot in the thirtysomething female audience,” said Roach. “I’m not in that sweet spot, and obviously Tom’s not in that sweet spot.” But Thuss, she added, is. “Rebecca is the Blueprint customer. She has enormous personal style, in the way she communicates, the way she dresses, her health and fitness and beauty regimen.” Roach added, “One of the great things about this project is we have a lot of homegrown talent, and we’ve finally been able to get them to the next step.”
Debra Bishop — also a 2004 ASME winner for her work on MSLO’s Kids: Fun Stuff to Do Together — is designing the test issues. Katie Hatch, a former lawyer who previously worked on crafts at MSLO, will be Blueprint’s fashion editor. Elizabeth Graves, who currently interviews beauty experts for a one-hour radio show on the MSLO Sirius channel, has been named Blueprint’s beauty editor. And Rebecca Robertson, who covered collecting for MSLO sister titles and has a degree in interior design, will work on home decor, along with Shane Powers.
In spite of the obvious architectural associations that come along with a word like Blueprint, Roach said home design would only make up about 30 percent of the magazine. Fashion and beauty will take up roughly 20 to 30 percent of its pages, with the remaining 40 to 50 percent devoted to a mix of aforementioned topics like travel and culture. “We want to really make this a Blueprint to all aspects of life,” said Roach. “We’re going to stretch the definition of that word with this magazine.”
— Sara James
SEPARATION ANXIETY: Elle parent Hachette Filipacchi Media is committing itself to more issues of Elle Accessories — but sending mixed messages about the status of its editor, Kelly Killoren Bensimon. Hachette said Monday it will publish two issues of the spin-off in 2006, following a successful launch issue last fall. The issue carried 108 ad pages, and newsstand copies in bookstores sold through at a rate of 50 percent, according to a spokeswoman.
But Hachette also said, in a release, that the follow-up issues would be “helmed” by issue director Anne Slowey (who is also Elle’s fashion news director), with the aid of new fashion director Lauren Goodman. Bensimon, said the release, “will continue to contribute as she did in the launch issue.” The wording of the statement raised eyebrows, coming, as it did, immediately after news of Bensimon’s separation from her husband, Elle international creative director Gilles Bensimon, who pushed for her to be made editor in the first place, according to sources. It also followed a report that she was among a number of candidates under consideration for a fashion director’s job at Vanity Fair previously held by Anne McNally, who shared the role with Elizabeth Saltzman Walker.
Roberta Myers, Elle’s editor in chief, said Bensimon had not been demoted. “I don’t mean for there to be mixed signals,” she said. “Kelly is the editor. Last time it was a collaborative effort between Kelly and editors on the Elle staff, and this time it is, too. That wording [in the release] was a bad result of a lot of phone tag.”
An Elle spokeswoman confirmed Bensimon’s role would be “very much the same,” but added, “Kelly has been spending a lot of time on the Assouline ‘Bikini Book,’ and her duties needed to be shared.”
A Hachette source, however, said Bensimon’s separation from her husband was, in fact, a distraction that would to some extent limit her involvement with the next issue. Moreover, as a former high-profile model, her most valuable contribution to the first issue was to serve as the face of Elle Accessories to advertisers and press, said Elle insiders. In that sense, the new masthead more accurately reflects the magazine’s division of labor. (Elle fashion director Nina Garcia, who was listed above Bensimon on the spin-off’s first issue, will not work on the subsequent issues.)
Bensimon was with her husband on an out-of-town shoot for Elle, and was unavailable for comment.
— Jeff Bercovici