Consumer Magazine Report: Out to Launch

Publishers are riding a new-title wave, serving up everything from O to Maximum Golf
After dominating daytime television for over a decade and moving masses of hardcovers with her book club, Oprah Winfrey is preparing to make a splash in magazine publishing. O: The Oprah Magazine, a collaboration between Winfrey’s Harpo Entertainment Group and Hearst Magazines, is set to debut in April.
But will hype and a celebrity name spell success in an already-crowded women’s magazine market? “If you had asked me a year ago, I would have said, ‘Oh God, another women’s magazine? There’s no more room!'” says publisher Alyce Alston, former publisher of Gruner & Jahr USA Publishing’s teen title YM. “But as we’ve developed this product, I’ve realized there’s a huge void in the marketplace. It needs something different, a new voice, and Oprah, like no one else, can deliver this voice.” Alston says that Winfrey, beyond lending her name and millions to the venture, will be “hugely involved” in the publication.
O editor in chief Ellen Kunes, previously executive editor of Cosmopoli-tan, says she envisions the new title as “the personal-growth guide for the new century.” O will publish combined issues for May/June and July/August before expanding to a monthly cycle with the September issue.
The magazine appears to be off to a roaring start. Alston says before it even had a name, it had cleared $20 million in “upfront” ad sales, a strategy common in network TV that gives advertisers willing to make an early commitment the best positions. Alston says the magazine’s “mass and class” client roster runs the gamut from Target to Nordstrom department stores. Beyond retail, its wide range of ad categories includes beauty, fashion, technology, finance and automotive.
And due to what Alston describes as “high demand” by retailers, O will have a whopping 1 million initial circulation, mostly newsstand starting out. The company will use its own and Winfrey’s Web sites, along with established, female-oriented Hearst titles, for promotion and peddling subscriptions, steering clear of other, costly advertising vehicles.
Other anxiously awaited start-ups:
Real Simple: In March, Time Inc. rolls out Real Simple, which is geared mainly to affluent, educated, professional women, many of them mothers. The edit will explore diverse areas of importance to today’s busy woman–among them, home, health, food, fashion and family. “Life is complicated, and the desire to make things simpler has resonance for many women,” says managing editor Susan Wyland, formerly group development editor of Time Inc.’s People Group. Like O, Real Simple will utilize cross-media promotion as well as established sister publications with a heavy female following (including People and In Style) to push the 10-times-yearly title, which plans a 400,000 starting circulation, about 60 percent of that subscription.
eCompany Now: From Time Inc.’s Fortune group comes eCompany Now, which will meld the technological and business aspects of the Internet revolution. (Think Wired meets the The Wall Street Journal.) Headed by president and editor Ned Desmond, a former vp at Infoseek and senior writer for Fortune covering Silicon Valley, the Northern California-based monthly plans to introduce a Web site in May, with the 200,000-circ magazine to follow in June. “We recognized that there’s a big readership out there today that really wants to understand how
the Web is changing business,” Desmond says. Subscriptions are expected to account for three-fourths of total circ. The magazine’s target demo is mostly male (nearly 70 percent of readers are expected to be men), educated, affluent and, of course, wired (93 percent of readers are online at home or work).
Offspring: From Hearst and its SmartMoney partner Dow Jones & Co. comes the parenting title Offspring. Set for a March premiere, the start-up was inspired by an award-
winning 1997 SmartMoney cover story on parenting and finances. Offspring hopes to distinguish itself from existing titles such as Parenting, Parents and Child by going beyond early child development and delving into broader parental interests such as finance, technology, travel and education. The magazine plans a 200,000 initial circ, with the first issue to be mailed to 100,000-plus SmartMoney subscribers.
Dads: In June comes yet another parenting start-up. Dads will examine child-rearing from a papa’s perspective. The monthly, started by former Emap Petersen advertising and marketing execs Walter Rosenthal and Seth Kean and former Money senior editor (and Adweek editorial director) Eric Garland, casts itself as a helpmate for “men in their roles as parents, professionals and consumers” and a “one-stop shop for today’s active, involved father.” Half of Dads’ editorial content will focus on parenting and family; other areas of emphasis will include investing, travel, health, careers and sports. Dads aims to sell 200,000 copies out of the gate using direct mail and rented databases of existing titles. The title expects three-fourths of its circ to be subscription, with 15 percent of its readership female. Ad-wise, the magazine is courting categories such as technology, travel, automotive, food/beverage and finance. In conjunction with the magazine’s launch, the partners will also introduce a Web site,
Maximum Golf: Hoping to benefit from the exploding popularity of golf among young men and the phenomenal success of booze-and-babes titles like Maxim is News Corp.’s Maximum Golf. As editor in chief Michael Caruso, former editor of Details, explains: “We’re the magazine for the hip crowd, not the hip-replacement crowd.” Targeting the estimated 10 million male golfers aged 18 to 39, the start-up is essentially a general-interest magazine posing as a golf title, admits Caruso. Maximum Golf will bow in May with an initial rate base of 300,000, which will move up to 450,000 next year. Nearly two-thirds of its initial distribution will be subscriber, and a projected 20 percent of its readership will be female. The magazine publishes 10 times a year. The subsidiary Murdoch Magazine Distribution will handle newsstand sales. –Tony Cas