BAITING THE FASHION CROWD

Byline: Lisa Lockwood

NEW YORK — When US Magazine morphs into USWeekly next Friday, there will be one more magazine knocking on fashion’s door.
USWeekly will have to get in line with other celebrity-entertainment weeklies, like Entertainment Weekly and People, for a share of fashion ad dollars. And that’s not an easy task, considering that fashion hasn’t been the easiest category to crack for this genre.
The fashion flock loves fat magazines, and, like its desire to hop on the latest trend, wants to be where everybody else is. Plus, they insist on great positioning — up front.
The weeklies counter that their fashion ads stand out from the slew of automotive, packaged goods and entertainment advertising that generally populates their pages.
So, the weeklies are building bigger mousetraps to woo the fashion crowd. Entertainment Weekly just added a jazzy new two-page feature called The Scout, a trendy field guide to what’s new and next, and what’s in, what’s five minutes ago and what’s out. People just expanded its Style Watch section to three pages, up from one, and added a celebrity-studded fashion column called Behind the Seams, written by Steven Cojocaru. It also runs special fashion issues, like Best and Worst Dressed and Oscar coverage. And now, USWeekly will serve up about 12 pages of fashion news, trends and photographs each week, edited by creative director Susan Kaufman, who joined last month from Glamour, where she was a senior editor.
Most of the coverage of the three is celebrity-focused, and of course, they’ll pull out all the stops for their Oscar issues and other star-filled events.
“Over the last 10 years, fashion has been one of the main stories in Hollywood,” said Maggie Murphy, assistant managing editor of Entertainment Weekly, which carries up to four pages a week of fashion coverage. It has a rate base of 1.4 million. Its coverage ranges from trend features to show coverage to stories about the stars associated with the designers.
“It’s not just the collections, but the atmosphere at the collections,” said Murphy. “We try to capture the Hollywood atmosphere, the attitude and the celebrity factor.”
“A lot of fashion designers have become fashion celebrities,” added Carol Wallace, managing editor of People, which has a rate base of 3.4 million. “Our readers look to the stars to see how they should dress, who’s looking elegant or how can someone with all that money dress like that.”
She said when Jennifer Lopez came out in her revealing Versace dress to the Grammys, “we did a double-truck on it.”
Whether a new weekly player like US, with a rate base of one million, can attract and keep the fashion crowd is yet to be seen.
“The fashion category’s doing OK,” said Dave Morris, who was named publisher of EW this week, replacing Michael Kelly who joined a venture capital firm specializing in the Internet. “The fashion world has always been a challenge for the weekly magazines. Big designers and smaller ones are comfortable in big, fat magazines like Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Elle. It’s always a challenge when you’re talking to [the designers] because they don’t see a lot of people in each individual issue.
“We try to steer them to issues they’ll be most comfortable with, such as the post-Oscar coverage, which has a lot of red carpet shots, glam and parties,” he added. “They like the movie preview issue and the ‘It’ list, anything with heightened glamorous type of editorial and the thicker, chunkier issues.”
Morris said he always tries to give fashion advertisers good positioning because they’re image accounts.
A four-color page in EW costs $99,475, which is more expensive than a lot of monthlies. [USWeekly charges $57,510, while People costs $144,000].
Morris said weekly magazines can’t live in the fashion world alone. They have to carry automotive, consumer electronics and other wide-ranging consumer products. He said EW’s fashion business was off 10 percent in the first quarter, and he expects it will be flat in the second quarter. Still, it manages to carry such key advertisers as Ralph Lauren, Lucky Jeans and Gap.
As for USWeekly entering the fray, Morris said, “They’ll find some challenges out there. It’s hard to say. We haven’t seen the product yet. The consumer will determine the success of that magazine on the newsstand and in subscriptions. If the consumer is there, they’ll attract advertisers.”
Fashion’s not a huge ad category for People either. For the first quarter, People ran 15 pages of fashion ads, equal to a year ago. It’s hopeful that its fashion advertising will increase with the expanded fashion coverage.
Asked what she thinks of US entering the weekly scene, People’s Wallace noted, “More power to them. Everybody’s in it, because of InStyle’s success and other magazines, and the growing size of Sunday style sections. It’s a hot topic. I’d be surprised if they weren’t doing it.”
So how does USWeekly hope to win over the fashion and beauty crowd?
For starters, it plans nine to 11 pages a week of beauty and fashion coverage.
“We’re not just using pick-up pictures,” said Kaufman. “We’re stuffing a lot of fashion and beauty into it.
“It’s a celebrity magazine, that’s the main focus. It’s a weird hybrid. We’re taking cues from the fashion and celebrity world, and we’re also shooting products of what celebrities wear. We’ll also give price information. We have market editors pulling items.”
Kaufman said she’ll do fashion shoots periodically and will incorporate movie stars. In fact, as reported, Todd Oldham was in Los Angeles last week shooting Kirstin Dunst for a feature that will run in the next three weeks.
She said she plans fun, short and entertaining pieces and will have fashion features in the well. “We’ll also have quick takes on trends.”

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