ELLE SETS SITES ON STYLE.COM: Elle has long lagged behind Vogue in the online arena but it’s finally starting to play some catch-up — by perhaps taking a page from its larger rival. Traffic to elle.com was way up in February following the debut of the site’s redesign at the end of January. The site averaged 1 million page views per day for the month, a 93 percent increase over February 2005, according to Laurie Fromm, managing director of the Elle Online Group. Advertising revenue in the first quarter to date is up 150 percent over last year, she added. All this comes at a time when the Elle brand in general has been thriving: The magazine’s newsstand sales average was up 15.2 percent in the second half of 2005, and it finished the year with 2,066 ad pages, a 10.7 percent gain over 2004.
“We spent a lot of time before we went ahead with this relaunch, talking to advertisers and viewers and studying the traffic to see what was really successful,” Fromm said. “We knew we had tremendous equity in the Elle brand, but you didn’t see that when you came to the site. We also felt navigation was very difficult, and we needed to create an architecture that would really allow a viewer to glide through the site.”
The new site — overseen by Jennifer Schonborn, a recent hire from MTV News — is certainly more stylish and easier to use. But its design is markedly similar to that of Style.com, the online home of Vogue and W (both of which are units of Condé Nast Publications, parent of WWD). Jamie Pallot, editorial director of CondeNet, Condé Nast’s Web division, noted that Style.com still towers over elle.com in the traffic standings, with more than 4.5 million page views per day in February. And while elle.com is on a tear, Style.com’s not standing still: It’s traffic for the month was up 45 percent over 2005. “In terms of the homage of the home page design,” said Pallot, “I guess we’ll take that as a compliment.”
— Jeff Bercovici
NEW DEAL FOR MAXIM MAN: It looks like Rob Gregory will be able to enjoy Maxim’s upcoming 100th issue celebration without a cloud hanging over his head. Gregory, the magazine’s publisher, recently signed a new two-year contract with Dennis Publishing, according to sources with ties to the company. His previous contract, obtained when Gregory jumped from Rolling Stone to Maxim in January 2004, was set to expire, and the magazine’s lackluster recent performance — advertising pages were down 31.5 percent in the first quarter, according to Media Industry Newsletter — had some wondering whether Dennis would keep him. With the imminent departure of editorial director Andy Clerkson, who was said to be earning $850,000 per year, Gregory is believed to be one of the highest-paid remaining Dennis executives. Gregory declined to comment on his contract.
Meanwhile, Gregory’s predecessor at Maxim, former publisher Jamie Hooper, finally hired an editor in chief Friday for Giant, his entertainment magazine. Hooper announced that Smokey Fontaine, founding editor of America magazine, would become Giant’s new editor. The position had been open since Giant’s founding editor in chief, Mark Remy, exited last April.
THAT’S RICH: What took them so long? The Wall Street Journal Europe is launching a glossy lifestyle magazine, aimed at rich businessmen age 30 to 55. The quarterly, which launches next month, has the working title of Style Journal. “A lot of professional men over 30 don’t buy men’s magazines because they think they’re laddish, yet this group likes to spend money on food, drink, travel and cars,” said editor Peter Howarth, formerly editor of Esquire and Arena. “With Style Journal, we are going straight to a readership that most men’s magazines would dream of, rather than hoping a readership finds us.”
Howarth said the magazine will be included with all WSJ Europe subscriptions. It will feature a mix of fashion, food and travel, as well as profiles of business people and entrepreneurs. The first issue, launching April 21, will be 64 pages and will run a profile of Tom DeVesto, the creator of Tivoli radios, and a story on Giorgio Armani‘s bespoke suiting service. Advertisers will include Hugo Boss, Versace, Armani and Breitling. Howarth, who is also a columnist for the Financial Times, insists the magazine will not be competing for advertising with that paper’s luxury supplement, How To Spend It. “How to Spend It is a great magazine, but a lot of its coverage is targeted at women, whereas Style Journal is going to be exclusively for men.”
Howarth added there were plans to launch Style Journal in Asia for fall 2006, and he didn’t rule out a U.S. introduction in the future. “Launching in Europe gives us an opportunity to test this on a smaller, more manageable scale. There are no plans initially to launch in the U.S., but it’s something we might consider.”
— Nina Jones