WHAT’S BEHIND BAZAAR CHANGE?
NEW YORK — “We need killers in every one of our magazines,” said Cathleen Black, president of Hearst Magazines.
Black was responding to a question on whether Bazaar needs a “killer” publisher to compete with the likes of Vogue’s Richard Beckman and Elle’s Carl Portale.
Earlier this week, Black abruptly switched publishers at Harper’s Bazaar, removing longtime HB vice president and publisher Jeannette Chang and replacing her with Cynthia Lewis, vice president and publisher of Marie Claire.
Chang was named senior vice president and international publishing director at Hearst Magazines.
“It seems like the right time to make a change,” explained Black. “Cindy is fabulous and Jeannette is fabulous. We’re sending her [Chang] to Italy next week.”
But isn’t being publisher of Harper’s Bazaar one of the premier jobs in the industry?
“She’s done it. Why not have an opportunity to launch magazines around the world? She’s happy about her new job. I have two happy campers,” said Black.
Chang couldn’t be reached for comment this week.
While Hearst officials say it’s a promotion, observers question the timing of the move and wonder whether Chang was kicked upstairs.
A 21-year veteran of Bazaar, Chang has been fighting an uphill battle for the past six years. Bazaar’s market share in the fashion sector has gradually eroded from second place in ad pages, behind Vogue in the early Nineties, to fifth place — its current position, behind Vogue, InStyle, W and Elle. And Chang worked through Liz Tilberis’s ailing health and death and was trying to rebuild under new editor in chief Kate Betts.
While ad pages were up 70 percent for the February relaunch issue, and gained 25 percent in March, they slowed to between 9 and 10 percent for April. Bazaar’s newsstand sales were off 12 percent in the second half of 1999, but subscriptions rose 5 percent, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulation.
“[The change] doesn’t reflect Jeannette’s capabilities,” said one publishing executive. “Chang is good, [but] Bazaar has been getting its ass kicked in for so many years. She’s been a great soldier for a lot of years.”
Despite the adversities, “she sold the product with conviction,” the executive said.
While observers say Chang has close relationships with the French and Italian companies, she isn’t as turned-on by the increasingly important mass market. She’s nice, diplomatic, well respected, but not perceived as a “killer” — what’s needed in the cutthroat world of fashion magazine publishing, especially one that’s looking to regain lost ground.
Some observers believe it was inevitable that Black would want to start fresh with a new team at Bazaar.
“The perception advertisers have is a carryover of the former regime,” said a source. The change was needed, the source indicated, to reflect the magazine’s new concept and positioning.
Will there be an upheaval in the Harper’s Bazaar staff?
“We have a great team at Harper’s Bazaar, but, like all new publishers, she [Lewis] will probably evaluate people,” said Black.
In her new role, Chang will report to George Green, president of Hearst Magazines International, and will drum up business for the international editions of Harper’s Bazaar, Cosmopolitan and Cosmogirl!
“George Green has built an international business and he needs help,” said Black. “Nobody knows the international marketplace like Jeannette.”
“I can’t think of anyone who would be better in representing our titles, primarily Harper’s Bazaar and Cosmpolitan, too,” said Green.
“One of the problems is, we haven’t done enough to support them,” added Green. “Most of the [ad] budgets are local. One of the things we need to do is give them more professionalism and expand their business internationally. When I ask [the local sales staff] who is seeing the head of Louis Vuitton or the head of a cosmetic company, they say, ‘nobody.’ This is very real.”
Black said there are currently 11 international editions of Harper’s Bazaar and two more are planned this year, in Japan and Indonesia. An edition in Italy is planned for 2001, along with two or three others. There are also two new international editions planned for Cosmogirl!
Black plucked Lewis out of Marie Claire, where she had been founding associate publisher and became vice president and publisher in 1997. Marie Claire, a joint venture between Hearst and Marie Claire Album, has been named to Adweek’s Hot List for the past three years in a row. Last year, Marie Claire’s ad pages increased 11.4 percent, and for the first quarter, they’re up 6 percent. For April, Marie Claire’s ad pages are up 44 percent.
The circulation picture has also been rosy at Marie Claire. The title had a 7 percent gain in newsstand sales and a 9 percent increase in subscriptions for the second half of 1999.
Lewis, who found out about the change Sunday night in a phone call from Anne Fuchs, senior vice president and group publishing director of Hearst, said, “I’m on cloud nine. I’m sad I’m leaving [Marie Claire], but it’s such a great opportunity.”
Look for Lewis to try to broaden the ad base quickly, a tack she took with Marie Claire by balancing mass and prestige. “I think they’ve done an excellent job in the prestige market,” she said of Bazaar, “but bridge and nonendemic categories provide a big opportunity for Harper’s Bazaar.
“It’s not an overnight slam bang…We’re in it for long-term media plans. I’m anxious to get out there and muscle in and get my sea legs settled. It’s very competitive.”
Does she have the killer mentality?
“Yes, when it’s defined by pages — not my management style. I’ve got to be out there and very focused. I’m going to be hitting the pavement big-time.”