NEEDLEMAN’S NEWBIE: Beginning this Saturday, the New York media world will finally begin to size up a new magazine war in town: Deborah Needleman’s WSJ. Magazine vs. Sally Singer’s T: The New York Times Style Magazine. Both editors worked at Condé Nast. Both are running the luxury magazines of two broadsheet newspapers that are desperate for their advertising revenue. And both will release their debut issues this weekend.

Needleman’s first issue features the French actor Vincent Cassel, the husband of Monica Bellucci and one of the stars of “The Black Swan,” on the cover. And why did Cassel, a relatively unknown actor, get selected as cover image No. 1?

This story first appeared in the November 29, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“He’s not someone hugely famous here — yet,” said Needleman. “I feel like he is just about to be. He seems like the perfect Wall Street Journal guy. He’s cool, and he really wears clothes really well.”

There is at least one cosmetic change to the magazine: The word “Magazine” was added to the logo! (Needleman said that this is an attempt to stem any confusion, as the paper’s Saturday edition is now also called WSJ.)

There’s good news for Needleman right out of the gates. The December issue has the highest ad page total in WSJ.’s short history (it beat out WSJ.’s second issue in December 2008 and the launch issue in September 2008). While former WSJ. editor Tina Gaudoin’s last issue in October/November clocked in at 92 total pages, Needleman’s issue will surpass 110 pages.

And how does she feel about the December issue?

“It’s a first issue,” she said. “I feel like I’ve carried on what’s good about the magazine, and I feel like I’ve brought my thing to it. But I don’t think it’s achieved what I want it to yet.”

She won’t have to worry about her next issue until March, and she hopes by that point she’ll have a bigger staff to work with. The staff of WSJ. has traditionally been only about 10 people, roughly half of whom are gone now. Needleman will have to start staffing up shortly, and hopes she can find a deputy who can help put out the magazine, as her time is now split between WSJ. and overseeing the Off-Duty section in the Saturday Journal.

Meanwhile, folks at the Times are keeping quiet about Singer’s first issue. As of early October, Singer had indicated to her staff that Mick Jagger would be the cover subject for the holiday issue, with Max Vadukul snapping the photos.

But we wondered: How much does Needleman believe in the budding rivalry between her and Singer?

“I really kind of don’t,” she said. “I’m interested in [T] because I’m interested in Sally. I think she’s interesting and talented. And I don’t mean this in a bullshit way, but I’m not doing [WSJ.] with an eye for them at all. Clearly there is a finite amount of market share with advertising and stuff like that, but that’s not my job.”

It is something Rupert Murdoch and Arthur Sulzberger Jr. will be interested in, however, and we’ll be sure to keep score.

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