NEW YORK — Condé Nast Publications significantly broadened its footprint in the teen category on Wednesday by buying the assets of YM magazine from Gruner + Jahr USA Publishing, which it plans to use to strengthen Teen Vogue.
YM will conclude its 72-year run with a December/January issue. After that, the magazine’s 1.2 million subscribers will begin receiving Teen Vogue.
Neither Condé Nast nor G+J would comment on financial details.
But according to sources with knowledge of the deal, Condé Nast agreed to pay about $15 million for the assets, which include YM’s trademark, its Web URL and its retail pockets. The publisher (which, like WWD, is a unit of Advance Publications Inc.) also agreed to assume roughly $15 million worth of subscription liabilities.
The addition of YM’s subscribers immediately pumps up Teen Vogue into a bigger player in the teen segment. The two-year-old Vogue spin-off, which had previously announced plans to increase its rate base to 650,000 from 450,000 in February, will instead jump to 850,000 — smaller than Seventeen, Teen People or Cosmogirl, but significantly bigger than Elle Girl, its closest rival, which has a guaranteed circulation of 500,000. (Elle Girl said Wednesday that it will publish 10 issues next year, up from eight this year.)
“We don’t see it as a fundamental shift of our plan, but an acceleration of it,” Teen Vogue’s vice president and publisher Gina Sanders said. “The goal is not to retain all of their subscribers. Rather, readers will self-select based on the Teen Vogue editorial.”
YM’s sale price was a fraction of the $182 million Hearst Magazines paid to buy Seventeen from Primedia last year. The price was affected by YM’s recent performance (ad pages were down 41.3 percent through October, to 493.7) as well as by the discovery last year that it had been over-reporting its newsstand sales.
Still, it was more than other potential bidders were willing to pay. Jack Kliger, chief executive officer of Hachette Filipacchi Media, claimed he would’ve been willing to acquire YM at a lower price. Kliger added that Hachette was interested in publishing YM, not merely absorbing its readers into Elle Girl. “Our experience has been that very few of those subscribers last,” he said. “The churn is very high.”
Hearst, meanwhile, chose not to bid, said executive vice president and publishing director Michael Clinton. “We think we’ve got the two strongest books in the marketplace, so we’re happy with that,” he said.
Most of YM’s approximately 60 staffers will be let go at the end of the week, although several will stay on to help with the transition, said a G+J spokeswoman.
Despite repeated denials by G+J, speculation persists that the company is seeking to sell more of its magazines. But a media investment banker said he did not think further divestitures were likely in the near term, believing that it would undermine G+J’s position in the market. “From a fundamental standpoint they don’t want to do it, and from an appearance standpoint they don’t want to do it,” he said.
— With contributions from Sara James