The 2001 Adweek Hot List is based on several factors: ad page and revenue gains, as tracked by Competitive Media Reporting for Publishers Information Bureau; performance within a magazine's competitive category; circulation gains; interviews with media buyers and consultants, and our own editors' judgment. Performance is tracked over three years, with greatest weight given to the most recent year.The Hot List: Top 10 Magazines 2001
For the list that follows, only titles with at least 10 issues published last year and $40 million in PIB ad revenue were considered.
Selecting Adweek Magazines' Hot List is a daunting task in any year. So many worthy magazines, so few spots on the list. This year, however, the job was, at times, agonizing.
Everyone, it seemed, was on fire in 2000. Our process began in November, when managing editor Marian Berelowitz and I began meeting with the top editors and publishers in the business. After countless hours of sifting through magazines, syndicated research material and media kits, we whittled the contenders down to a manageable number. Magazine consultants and buyers helped even further. Finally, painfully, joyfully: We had our Hot List.
And we had a few surprises. Superstar magazines, some with more than 5,000 ad pages, did not make the list. And several of last year's upstarts—Maxim, ESPN and Teen People—leapfrogged onto it. The reason, in both cases, has much to do with relative heat.
The list is a register of how hot a magazine is—how far, in other words, it has come—and not necessarily how great it is. Last, we had another surprise of sorts. When the economy fizzled and dot-gones sizzled, we realized that many of the new-economy magazines were facing a daunting 2001. So, despite their stellar performances in 2000, we could not, in good conscience, put them on the Hot List. In our selection process we primarily analyze the past.
But we do not ignore the future.
1. FortuneExecutive of the Year: Don Logan
Revenue Up: $151.5 million
Ad Pages Up: 1,707.7
Revenue Up: $80.0 million
Ad Pages Up: 692.9
3. Vanity Fair
Revenue Up: $18.8 million
Ad Pages Up: 205.8
Revenue Up: $69.5 million
Ad Pages Up: 258
5. Fast Company
Revenue Up: $39.7 million
Ad Pages Up: 440.8
Revenue Up: $34.9 million
Ad Pages: -48.4
7. Martha Stewart Living
Revenue Up: $36.3 million
Ad Pages Up: 263.7
8. Marie Claire
Revenue Up: $24.7 million
Ad Pages Up: 262.7
9. Yahoo Internet Life
Revenue Up: $26.3 million
Ad Pages Up: 121.4
10. Teen People
Revenue Up: $19.6 million
Ad Pages Up:111.9
By Lisa Granatstein
Thirty miles as the crow flies from Auburn, Ala., Don Logan was hunkered down in his 21-foot fishing boat, braving the chilled, damp air on New Year's Eve. While the rest of the world whooped it up, toasting the dawn of a new millennium, Time Inc.'s chairman/CEO and his wife, Sandy, trawled his private 80-acre lake in pursuit of the era's first bass. It was pitch black and stone silent. A flicker of light and the dull roar of New York's Times Square reverberated from a portable TV his wife had brought onboard.
As Sandy watched Dick Clark ring in the new year, Logan juggled a flashlight and his fishing rod. "I wanted to do something crazy," he says, now comfortably ensconced in his well-heated office on the 34th floor of the Time & Life Building. "I thought I would always remember the millennium if I could be the first person to catch a fish. I didn't think anyone else in the world would think of doing it."
An hour later in the boat and only nibbles to report, Logan, whose property straddles the Eastern and Central time zones, made an executive decision. He had blown the first hour, Eastern time, so he would try to catch the millennium's first fish in Central time. But still no luck. "It went on for another hour and I still didn't get a fish," he recalls. "It was cold. We gave up and came in."
By 6:30 a.m., Logan's rod was in the water again. "I went back at daybreak and caught one within five minutes." He shrugs: "I was a few hours off."
No big deal. Logan may not have netted the millennium's first bass, but he did catch one eventually. And like the company he runs, which under his watch has steadily grown to fish-tale proportions, that's just fine with him. Knowing what lures to use will only take you so far, as Logan knows, because like in publishing, patience and perseverance ultimately are what separate the minnows from the masters.
"He's very patient," notes Fortune editor John Huey. "He waits for things to play the way he wants them to play and then he plays them, and that's really rare. Most businessmen are driven by so much ego and testosterone and anger. He analyzes the situation, he figures out the way he wants it to be, and then he figures out what has to happen."
But many now wonder whether that MO will play as well in the new-world order of AOL Time Warner. Logan previously answered only to TW chairman Jerry Levin (the new company's CEO); with the merger two months old, he now reports first to Bob Pittman, AOL Time Warner's co-chief operating officer. Although the two share roots south of the Mason-Dixon line (Pittman's early days were spent in Mississippi), and both take the bottom line as gospel, their styles and the companies they run are a study in contrasts.
Pittman, a maverick motorcyclist, helped introduce MTV and AOL into the cultural lexicon, and his brew of choice is new media, be it cable or the Web. With a need for speed, AOL is built to turn on a dime. As head of Time Warner's publishing division, Logan steers a company the size of a tanker; quick decisions can be made, but reactions and returns are slower in coming.
When Time Inc.'s returns are calculated, though, they are lucrative. And 2000—for which Logan has been named Adweek Magazines' Executive of the Year—was no exception.
Logan had an eventful year of launches, notably Real Simple and eCompany Now, as well as acquisitions, with Time Inc. swallowing Times Mirror Magazines. Advertising revenue for Time Inc. in 2000 grew 11 percent, to $2.8 billion, with Fortune, In Style and Teen People on Adweek Magazines' coveted Hot List. As for company cash flow, Time Inc. ended 2000 up 4 percent in earnings before interest taxes, depreciation and amortization, hitting a new record of $747 million. The company marked its 36th consecutive quarter of growth at the end of last year, and Logan expects early 2001 to be his 37th.
"What Don's done is take Time Inc. from being No. 1 to being in a league by itself," notes Chip Block, a publishing strategist for Ziff Davis Media and a Time Inc. veteran. "There's no [publishing] company that compares to it, not even close."
Still, Logan now faces what may be the biggest challenge of his impressive career. The merger with AOL has shifted the publishing paradigm in such a way that the offline and online worlds now are more closely tethered than ever before.
In an effort to please Wall Street, Logan and Pittman must fuse their old and new-media businesses (and styles) into a well-oiled money machine. Most industry watchers agree that when it comes to Logan, who takes credit for turning Time Inc. into Time Warner's personal ATM, Pittman will let Don be Don.
Despite a swiftly softening economy, worsening newsstand headaches, and rising paper and postal costs, Logan remains dead set on delivering double-digit figures to help AOL Time Warner meet its aggressive goal of a 25 percent to 30 percent increase in cash flow. "Oh, yes," drawls Logan with a glint in his blue eyes. "All I'll say is we expect to grow significantly faster than we did this year."
In aiming for those goals, Logan, 57, will continue to rely on his deceptively simple, low-key approach. Those not in the know may be fooled by his unassuming ways, but they quickly learn when he dissects business plans and budgets: The mathematician turned NASA programmer turned publisher is in a class of his own.
"The thing about Logan is, you may think you understand how smart he is, but he's actually smarter than that," says John Logue, a former Southern Progress creative director who shared more than 20 years with Logan at the Time Inc. sister company. "He is really, really bright. But he conceals that, and that's why he gets along with everybody."
Time Inc. staffers generally agree that Logan is completely approachable and even borders on being apolitical. "He's never bullied anybody," Huey said in a January speech honoring Logan with the Henry Johnson Fisher Award for lifetime achievement. "And he's never been bullied by anybody."
While Time Inc., like all publishing companies, has its own brand of corporate intrigue, it is not condoned by Logan. Performance, above all else, is what gets you ahead. "He delegates authority and responsibility, and he's devoid of a political agenda," says Norm Pearlstine, Time Inc.'s editor-in-chief. "He rewards results as opposed to just hard work, and that sometimes means he makes tough decisions."
One of those decisions a year ago was the closing of Life. It wasn't easy, but it needed to be done.
"His approach to the business is a completely objective, straightforward, on-the-merits, nonpolitical decision making," says Levin of Logan's management style. "That may sound like, 'Well, why isn't everybody like that?' Well, unfortunately, I think most people find it difficult to make hard decisions."
That ability was honed early on in life. Though Logan's bio says he hails from Hartselle, Ala. (pop. 12,000), he actually lived outside of town, at the edge of the woods. The middle of three children and the son of a welder, Logan was the first member of his family to attend college, in the early '60s. His calling was mathematics. To pay for school, he took a job at a NASA outpost in Huntsville, Ala., where he learned to write computer programs.
After a short stint at the Shell Oil Company, in 1970 Logan accepted a job at the Birmingham, Ala.-based Progressive Farmer Company, now called Southern Progress. He rebuilt the company's computerized fulfillment system for its magazines. Then he built from scratch a similar model for Oxmoor House, the book division of Southern Progress.
Logan steadily moved up the ranks, becoming Southern Progress' chairman and chief executive in 1986, a year after it had been acquired by Time Inc. In 1992, Logan got the call from Levin, asking him to join Time Inc. as president/chief operating officer. It took some convincing on Levin's part.
"I wasn't sure I would be good enough to run this place after running magazines where we did recipes and everybody liked you and nobody sued you," Logan says. "I came into it with the assumption and belief that it was probably less than 50/50 that I would last two years."
But two years later he was named CEO of Time Inc., replacing Reginald Brack. Logan's first task was to lay down the law in what was then a group of fiefdoms more fractious than Bosnia-Herzegovina.
"I would have left the company, absolutely [if not for Logan]," says Ann Moore, president of People Group, which has launched a slew of titles in recent years, including Teen People and Real Simple. "This is a true meritocracy here. Really good people flourish."
In the early '90s, Logan restructured Time Inc. He encouraged diversity through recruitment programs, and he added presidents to head up magazine divisions that ultimately created megabrands such as People and revitalized Time and Fortune. He did away with the unpopular and inefficient centralized advertising sales force. And he's proved to be a patient leader.
Take Real Simple. Though its launch in April was shaky at best, given its muted look and puzzling editorial concept (tips on how to clean your bathroom), Logan allowed Pearlstine and Moore time to iron out the kinks. Within two months, managing editor Susan Wyland was gone, replaced by In Style assistant ME Carrie Tuhy. Meanwhile, O, the Oprah Magazine, published jointly by Hearst Magazines and Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Entertainment Group, was on fire; in July, O will boast a 1.9 million rate base.
Still, advertisers and readers stuck with Real Simple, and both ads and circulation continue to grow at a steady clip. In February, the guaranteed rate base was increased to 700,000, a 75 percent rise since the launch of the magazine, which is published 10 times a year. And according to its estimates, Real Simple averaged 68 ad pages per issue last year.
"We missed the mark editorially coming out of the gate, no question," admits Logan, referring to the launch of Real Simple. "But the power of the idea was so strong that we have actually exceeded our circulation plans. If we had gotten the edit right off the bat, we'd be further along. If we make a mistake, we try to fix things quickly and go forward."
Meanwhile, Logan also has high hopes for Fortune spinoff eCompany Now. After sniffing around Mortimer Zuckerman's Fast Company (which was sold in December to G+J USA Publishing) as well as Red Herring, the Fortune Group hatched its own new-economy magazine, eCompany Now, based in San Francisco. Some industry watchers note that it was late in coming, having launched a month after Nasdaq's nose dive.
"If we started a year earlier, we probably would have been a little fatter in ad pages, [but] I don't worry about timing so much as I worry about whether the idea was right," Logan says. "We're not in it to get the big pop. If somebody comes to me and says we have a window of opportunity [to be first out of the box] and [if not] we're not going to be as successful, I'll say, 'Let's just kill it right now, because it's not going to be successful in the long period anyway.' "
Besides, Logan adds, the plug may have been pulled on underachieving dot-coms, but the Internet is not going away. "There may be some dot-com advertisers that are going to disappear," he says. "But the technology is not going away, and the Internet's impact on our lives is not going to go away." In January, eCompany Now's rate base increased to 325,000 from 250,000. (In June, circ will grow to 375,000.) Ad pages last year averaged 130 per issue, according to publisher estimates.
Typically a publisher of mass magazines, Time Inc. tiptoed into niche publishing with eCompany Now, but with December's acquisition of the hotly contested Times Mirror Magazines, it is now fully immersed. Time Inc. paid a cool $475 million, and a 12-times multiple, for the publisher of specialty titles including Outdoor Life, Field & Stream and Ski.
"That was kind of a plus for us," notes Sports Illustrated Group president Michael Klingensmith, who recently added TMM to his portfolio. "It represented markets that we were going to have a hard time entering [through launches]. We were not going to start another ski magazine."
The acquisition adds more testosterone to Time Inc., which in recent years has placed a heavy emphasis on the women's category. It also adds massive scale to SI's growing empire, and to Time Inc. as a whole—a key strategy for aggressively boosting earnings in a challenging year.
"The decisions Time Inc. has made during the past 36 months show a lot of determination and creativity," says David Verklin, CEO of Carat North America, referring to startups such as Teen People and eCompany Now. "Did you expect them to go out and win Times Mirror Magazines? I sure didn't. I think Logan came to recognize that the only real way he's going to get the kind of growth he wants is by acquisition."
Despite the company's steady flow of launches, and his interest in acquisitions, Logan is far from an easy mark. Business plans have to be airtight; it's hard to play the numbers game with a math whiz. "I need convincing on everything," he says. "Once you get enamored with a business or a project, you can't see the potential flaws."
In 1995, when the semblance of sanity evaporated during the trippy days of the Web gold rush, Logan caught major flak from some publishers for his now legendary "black hole" remark—about how companies were pouring big bucks into digital businesses with no profits in sight. He included Time Inc., which launched its Pathfinder portal in 1994.
"Everybody was gaga over the Internet at the time," he says of his comment. "It was expensive to do, and we didn't know where the end game was. You could spend all the money you want to, but for us and most companies, it's going to be a black hole."
Of course, the man treated by the industry as a "Huckleberry Luddite," as Huey joked in his January toast to Logan, proved to be dead on. When the plug was pulled two years ago on Pathfinder, the megasite had lost $100 million. Logan, however, prefers to see it as an investment in R&D.
Despite any missteps, he still likes the Net. Logan routinely surfs to keep up with football and basketball scores at Auburn, his beloved alma mater. He also buys books from Amazon.com and fishing supplies at his favorite bass pro shop's site.
But it will be Logan's—and Time Inc.'s—assimilation into Internet culture via AOL that is key. When AOL's deal to buy Time Warner for $156.1 billion was announced in January 2000, Logan received the news with characteristic calm. He was in Hawaii, addressing a business group at the time. Did he hop on the next plane to New York? "Hell, no!" he says with a slight smirk. "What could I do? I went sightseeing and explored the volcanoes." Good thing, because it would prove to be a very busy year.
So far, converting AOL users into Time Inc. subscribers is by far the quickest way to demonstrate corporate cross-pollination. Through simple pop-up screens, AOL has helped generate close to 1 million new subscriptions. Synergy is a no-brainer given the nature of publishing, says AOL's Pittman, and Time Inc. has certain advantages over AOL.
"Time Inc. is a subscription business, and the editorial is random access—meaning the consumer can go to what they want, when they want and where they want," says Pittman. "That's a more mobile device than any mobile device AOL has…Don's group is certainly in the Top 10 [subscription] sources for AOL now."
The AOL TW merger came at just the right time for Time Inc., which, like all publishers, has been forced to design new ways to win subscribers following the demise of stampsheets. Last June, Time Inc. acquired a 20 percent stake in Synapse Group Inc., which attracts subscribers through telemarketing and credit card programs. Additionally, Time Inc. has nearly 20 percent of its subs on credit cards. All of this, when combined with AOL's assets and Time Inc.'s savvy marketing, should keep circulation strong.
"I can assure you, on the circulation side, it's going to be a home run," says Ziff Davis' Block. "The only thing that can keep them from making it a home run is themselves. If they wind up in a situation where there's pissing contests and empire building, they won't realize the opportunities."
Easier said than done. Playing well with others has not historically been one of Time Warner's strong points. While AOL Time Warner is banking on synergies, Logan and others at the company know all too well about failed opportunities. Time Warner's big plans after swallowing Turner Broadcasting System in 1996 come to mind. Attempts over the years to meld the cable network with Time, Fortune and Entertainment Weekly have been a disaster.
Meanwhile, once-stable Time Inc. has lately been anything but. The company has felt the impact of the merger in the form of layoffs and streamlining efforts. More than 2,400 jobs companywide have been eliminated since January. Time Publishing Ventures, once home to former Time Inc. titles Martha Stewart Living and Vibe, was shuttered; Health magazine was sent packing to Birmingham, where it will now be overseen by Southern Progress, publisher of Cooking Light.
In January, three Times Mirror Magazines—Senior Golfer, Family Handyman and Outdoor Explorer—were folded. In February, the Money Group, which includes Mutual Funds magazine, was put back under the watch of the Fortune Group, run by president Jack Haire and editor Huey. And the hard times probably aren't over yet; division heads are nervously waiting to see which groups are combined next.
"What AOL did was give us a charge to look at our overall management structure," says Logan. "It gave us an opportunity to make some changes that may not have been made as quickly."
Logan, who resides in Manhattan with wife Sandy, but frequently visits his two sons' families down in the South, has yet to be tainted by all those Yankees he now cocktails with. Still, the good old boy pretends to know less than he does about many things, including pop culture. Clearly, he does keep tabs on magazine covers other than Fortune.
In a pop quiz that would make President Bush squirm, Logan performed admirably. Britney Spears? "Yeah, she's on everything. She's the one that doesn't wear any clothes," he shoots back. Russell Crowe? "Meg Ryan. They just separated. Gladiators."
One question he won't answer is how much longer he'll stay on the job. Though he's been on an enviable eight-year run at Time Inc.'s helm, some industry watchers wonder whether he will stick around beyond what is believed to be the last two years of his contract. But until he decides to move on, Logan will continue to mix his two passions: publishing and fishing.
"There are some functional similarities," he insisted at the Henry Johnson Fisher Awards. "If you're going to succeed, you have to get up very early in the morning. You have to be able to see things that may not be apparent from just looking at the surface. And you have to be smarter than the fish."
Don Logan is smarter than the fish.