THE WEEKLY GRIND: Brad Weekly? In Touch With the Olsens? At the rate things are going, it won’t be long before there’s a celebrity news magazine for every star in Hollywood. The latest to pile on is Us Weekly publisher Wenner Media, which is incubating a new weekly offering that it hopes to launch toward the end of the year. Wenner officials had no comment, but sources said the new title was likely to take the form of a news-driven lifestyle tabloid along the lines of Bauer Publishing’s Life & Style and American Media Inc.’s soon-to-appear Celebrity Living. Freelance designers are currently at work on a secret prototype. If it wins approval, it will be Wenner’s first launch since the founding of Men’s Journal in 1992 (not counting Us’ move from a monthly to a weekly in 2000).
According to one source in the weekly market, Wenner would like to introduce the new title within six months. It’s unclear, however, whether the company could acquire the additional newsstand pockets necessary in such a short time. AMI is said to be freeing up pockets for Celebrity Living by taking them away from two of its old-line tabloids, the Globe and the Examiner.
One factor sure to be figuring in Wenner’s calculations is the expected introduction of OK, a popular British tabloid, into the U.S. later this year. Owner Richard Desmond announced plans for a U.S. launch in January, but that was before a court scotched his plans to have Nicola McCarthy, whom Desmond poached from Us Weekly, serve as editor. The court ruled last month that McCarthy remains bound by her noncompete clause until April 2006. The current rumor is that Desmond has been trying to entice Bonnie Fuller, who is not known for her loyalty to employers, away from AMI. Although her contract runs through June 2006, it only requires her to give 30 days notice to resign. But a spokesman for Fuller said she hadn’t been approached and wasn’t interested, anyway.
— Jeff Bercovici
DOMINO DOMINATES: The first issue of Domino has closed with 106 ad pages, making it the biggest Condé Nast launch in the last five years, according to vice president and publisher Beth Fuchs Brenner. Home advertising accounted for 30 percent of pages in the new shelter shopping magazine. Another third, surprisingly, came from the fashion and beauty categories, which means Domino, on sale April 26, is looking more like a direct competitor to Hearst’s Shop Etc. than previously thought.
“We’ve really been positioning the magazine as where fashion and home intersect,” said Brenner, who disclosed that clothing items will appear on pages with housewares to illustrate current trends. “We want to appeal to people who shop for their home the way they shop for their clothing, mixing price points, mixing designers. They’ve mastered that with their clothes, but they’re still crying out for help with their homes.”
By comparison, precursor Lucky, which started the shopping genre, launched with 90 ad pages. Cargo and Shop Etc. each debuted with 97 ad pages. (Condé Nast, Domino, Lucky and Cargo are all, like WWD, part of Advance Publications Inc.)
As for talk that Condé Nast may try to merge the Domino sales team with those of House & Garden and Architectural Digest to form a shelter group, Brenner said, “We’re talking more seriously as a group now. Chuck [Townsend, president and chief executive officer of Condé Nast] is trying to unite a number of groups within the company….If you stay tuned, you’ll see more of that.”
— Sara James
BLOWING YOUR BUDGET: For many publishing companies, tampering with a successful formula is unthinkable. But Budget Living editor in chief Sarah Gray Miller doesn’t agree.
“The minute it becomes rote, I become bored,” she said, discussing her decision to change the relatively new magazine’s logo and design less than a year after she picked up a National Magazine Award for general excellence in the 250,000 to 500,000 circulation category. “I think sometimes these things can get overthought, especially in a large company,” she said. “It’s one of the nice things about being small. It’s easier for us to make decisions.”
The new logo, which debuts on the April/May issue, takes up less space on the cover, meaning it will work with a wider variety of images and allow for more cover lines. Interior changes will arrive with the next issue. The magazine is set to go to a 10-times-a-year frequency this fall.
“It’s not that much different than what we all do in our personal lives,” said Miller, who stopped short of calling the tweaks a redesign. “You get new makeup or you get a haircut or you move the furniture around in your living room. And I think it’s important for magazines to do the same thing.” Or at least vacuum.