SUSTAINING THE GAIN: TV Guide’s radical plan to save itself with a total redesign has met with some success — but will it last? Newsstand sales are way up since October, when the magazine upgraded from digest size to full size and shed most of its listings. According to a source with access to retail data, the magazine has sold an average of roughly 524,000 copies per issue since the relaunch, up from 315,000 in the first half of the year. The Nov. 29 issue, which came with special glasses enabling viewers to watch an episode of “Medium” in 3-D, performed especially well, with sales of 903,000 copies. The following issue, however, which was on sale over Thanksgiving weekend, sold only 270,000 copies. A TV Guide spokeswoman declined to comment on these numbers, saying accurate sales figures were not yet available.

While a 66 percent rise in newsstand sales would be cause for rejoicing at most magazines, TV Guide executives are still nervous, according to an insider. That’s because those new sales have come at an ultralow promotional price of 99 cents, compared with $2.49 before the relaunch. Starting in January, the price goes up to $1.99, making it more expensive than competing weeklies such as In Touch, Life & Style and Celebrity Living. “Whatever the official word, with the money they spent on promotion, they were hoping for much bigger numbers,” said the insider.
Jeff Bercovici

ALI REMATCH: The George Lois renaissance continues. In October, the American Society of Magazine Editors selected three of the legendary art director’s vintage Esquire covers as part of the “Top 40 Magazines of the Past 40 Years,” including his 1968 Muhammad Ali cover. Recently, Lois has been consulting in the magazine world again — he collaborated on Radar’s covers during its brief resurrection. And now he’s at work on his next book.

“Ali Rap,” which will be released by Taschen in May, is a conceptual coffee table book that envisions Ali as the world’s first rap star. Ali quotes such as “No Vietnamese ever called me ‘n—–,'” will be provocatively positioned next to photography and illustration.

This story first appeared in the December 20, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“For sure, he’s probably the most famous and beloved man in the world,” said Lois, a longtime friend of Ali’s. “He’s had a gigantic influence on the culture, particularly in his antiwar sentiments.” Asked whether the rap community agreed with his premise, Lois said, “Jay-Z, 50 Cent, a bunch of them, I told them about it, and they said, ‘You know, you’re right.'”

Regardless, if any publishing house would be open to parsing the details of Ali’s life in a creative fashion, it would be Taschen, which previously released “GOAT [Greatest of All Time],” a $3,000, 75-pound, 800-page tribute to the champ.
Sara James

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