A SIMPLE PLAN
Byline: Lisa Lockwood
NEW YORK — “I think this is a bigger concept than InStyle,” proclaimed Ann Moore, president of the People Group at Time Inc.
That rather bold statement referred to InStyle’s new sibling, Real Simple, which hit newsstands Monday.
While Real Simple is being launched with a 400,000 rate base, and InStyle started with a 500,000 rate base, early indications show that the new magazine will be “bigger than InStyle,” she said.
“It’s going to be so broad. I have high hopes for this,” said Moore, who has bottom-line responsibility for People, InStyle, Teen People, People en Espanol and Real Simple.
Moore brushed off critical takes of the magazine that appeared last week on the front page of the Home Section in The New York Times — one a profile of managing editor Susan Wyland by Julie V. Iovine, where she questions Real Simple’s basic premise. “Real Simple may have the right idea, just the wrong planet,” she wrote. Iovine also wondered how Real Simple readers can trust a magazine that presents rooms with no signs of toys or children. The other, a satirical column by Joe Queenan pokes fun at simplicity Web sites, such as RealSimple.com. He offers up a seven-step program to navigate such sites, including “If a guide to simplifying something contains more than 60 helpful hints, accept the fact that some things cannot be simplified.”
“I will always take that real estate any time,” said Moore, referring to the front page of the Home section. “You’ve got to develop thick skin. Do you remember the first stories that appeared about InStyle?” Thoughts of fashion-lite sprang to mind.
With its soothing layout and stories such as as simplifying laundry, paying bills online, cleaning one’s toilet and one-dish meals, Real Simple may be a little too simple for the high-powered career woman juggling work and family, but so far, it’s building a large subscriber base. It currently has 500,000 subscribers, and Moore said it had to raise the print order to 1 million. It put about 500,000 copies out on the newsstand.
“You can just feel it from the extraordinary response rates. It’s been a flawless launch from the onset. They [advertisers] buy the premise that America is overstressed. Both revenue streams [advertising and circulation] respond to this. This is going to be big,” she said.
Will all this fawning over the baby upset the older siblings?
InStyle is certainly no slouch, with ongoing dramatic growth and plans to enter e-commerce. Launched in June, 1994 with a 500,000 rate base, InStyle raised its rate base to 1.3 million in January. The magazine has grown by an average rate of 50 percent in ad pages the last four years, and it reported a 51.9 percent gain for the first four months of 2000 (including a special Weddings issue), according to Media Industry Newsletter.
But in terms of the number of ad pages carried in the debut issue, Real Simple is Time Inc.’s biggest launch ever, surpassing the previous record holder, Teen People.
The April issue debuted with 110 ad pages. Teen People carried 61 ad pages in its debut issue, and InStyle’s launch issue had 37 ad pages.
Unlike some launches that require charter advertisers to buy the first few issues up front, Moore said Real Simple had no deals. She originally budgeted 50 ad pages for the debut issue, and more than doubled that. The May issue drops off to 75 ad pages. “Everybody wants to be in the first issue,” said Moore.
Teen People still holds the record at Time Inc. for being the quickest out of the gate to break even — it took Teen People 17 issues. InStyle broke even in three years, and Moore expects Real Simple to break even in three years, as well.
Whereas InStyle is newsstand-driven, the plan for Real Simple is to be at least 60 percent subscription-driven, and 40 percent newsstand-driven.
“It doesn’t have a celebrity cover. Can a flower hold its own against Julia [Roberts]?” asked Moore.
Pricing its ads on the low side, Real Simple offered a four-color single-page ad for $28,000. “We start out pretty inexpensive,” said Moore. “I always like to see a bonus on the first issue. I like to see those who help you in the early days get a reward.”
“We’ve had more orders for Real Simple than we budgeted for the first two years,” said Moore, referring to subscriptions. She pointed out that many of the Time Inc. titles have advertised Real Simple in its pages, such as Southern Living and Sports Illustrated. It was also advertised on AOL’s home page this week, where members were offered three sample issues — the first such tie-in since Time Inc. announced it was merging with AOL.
Advertisers in the debut issue included Ann Taylor, Ralph Lauren Home, Estee Lauder, Baby Gap, Clinique, Lancome, Lucy.com, Revlon, Chanel’s Allure, Liz Claiborne, DeBeers, Reebok, DKNY Underwear, Calvin Klein Eternity and Jones New York.
The magazine will be published 10 times a year.
Although the magazine currently has a marketing Web site, it plans to launch a more comprehensive site in September that will be “a functional tool box,” said Moore. “It really needs to be able to supplement the magazine. This magazine is about solutions. We want to have a very functional Web presence.”
Turning to InStyle, Moore said she expects the magazine’s Web site to be up and running by the fourth quarter. The site, which is being developed by Ann Acierno, general manager of InStyle.com, will have e-commerce capabilities. Most recently, Acierno was senior vice president, general merchandise manger, e-commerce at Saks Inc.
Moore said the magazine is like a catalog already, and e-commerce is a natural. It will begin by offering some products off the pages, particularly gift items.
Time Inc. will do the buying, warehousing and fulfillment of the items, and will also have links to sites like Nordstrom, for items it probably won’t carry, such as shoes.