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AMI Suspends Mom & Baby; Cuts Natural Health Frequency

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David Pecker’s American Media Inc. is slimming down its health-focused titles again as the company braces itself for a possible prolonged ad downturn.

AMI is suspending publication of five-year-old Mom & Baby while scaling back Natural Health’s frequency to eight from 10 times a year starting in 2010.

Launched five years ago, Mom & Baby came out twice yearly with a rate base of 500,000. It was distributed mainly at doctor’s offices.

Separately, Natural Health will now be produced by Fit Pregnancy’s staff, which used to produce Mom & Baby. Eileen Chiafair, the publisher of Natural Health, and its editor, Mary Bolster, left the company when their jobs were eliminated. It was unclear if other staffers will lose their jobs.

AMI isn’t alone among magazines in reevaluating its business as the downturn grinds on. Condé Nast, parent of Vogue and The New Yorker, told its employees last week that it hired consultants McKinsey & Co., sparking fears of layoffs among staffers.   

Jeff Christian, publisher of Fit Pregnancy and now, Natural Health, said AMI hoped to restart Mom & Baby at some point. “We’re not shuttering it, but we’re suspending publication,” he said. “Some of the endemic advertisers were supporting it with four and five pages, and they have challenges.”

Meanwhile, the staff of Men’s Fitness July 27 were expected to be told that they would be furloughed for 12 days between now and March 2010. Shape’s staff was out the same day on unpaid leave after being told the same news three weeks earlier.

“We’re planning for a worst-case scenario, but we’re hoping for the best,” said Marc Richards, publisher of Men’s Fitness.

This round of cost cuts is just the latest for AMI. Just a few months ago, it cut the rate base at Men’s Fitness and Natural Health, along with celebrity weekly Star, to keep costs in line with falling ad revenue.

Natural Health’s ad pages declined 16.1 percent to 271 this year through its July/August double issue. Shape’s declined 9.9 percent to 874 through its August issue and Men’s Fitness, 21.2 percent to 421 through its August issue. Figures are from the Mediaweek Monitor.