Let’s do launch: Folio looks at kickoff parties

Folio’s Dylan Stableford explores the fabulous and buzzy world of magazine launch parties, crunching the numbers they generate – and expenderate – and seeing if they’re commensurate. Sometimes at Fishbowl we like to rap.

Stableford wonders existentially if going to these mega-hyped launch parties really makes you cool (we say yes – send your invites our way!) and, more to the point, what exactly it does for the bottom line. For Domino, the launch with the heftiest price tag at a reported $300,000 – not including the heavily-sponsored high-end gift bags worth about $700 each. Between the 2,000 square-feet of sod and 6,500 square-feet of boxwood brought in from Maryland to create an “English garden,” the 15 chandeliers, assorted chaise lounges, and enough ottomans for your very own empire, the vast white space of Skylight Studios was completely transformed.

Obviously the point of these events is to generate buzz, the kind that can be sold to advertisers and readers alike. In Domino‘s case that goal was achieved – the guest list was maxed out (not to mention the gift bags) and according to Stableford the Domino brass consider it “the most successful Cond&#233 Nast launch in recent years.” For its maiden issue, Domino sold approximately 200,000 copies and 300,000 subscriptions. Thanks to the launch party? Well, $300,000 has to help.

In the case of Work and Topic magazines, which each held parties on a slightly smaller scale to celebrate upcoming issues, the goal was getting out the bodies and the buzz: at Work, it was all about just getting people there, while Topic took it to the next level by getting the people to get the people there (notably David Cross but also Jonathan Ames and Andy Borowitz). Per Topic editor David Haskell: “Another major goal [in addition to raising cash to offset production costs]…is to keep our name out there and provide interesting, off-beat experiences.” No gift bags, but the kind of party that makes you jones for the next one.

Of course the magalaunch with the most hoopla in recent months was naturally Radar, festooned as it was with flinging pies and a sprinkling of boldfaced boldfacers (Tina Brown, Mort Zuckerman, Al Sharpton, FishbowlNY). Here, though, the buzz had built to a high-pitched keening leading up to the event. Fishbowl had fun at the party and appreciated her Kabbalah bracelet, but that wasn’t really the point; Fishbowl didn’t end up writing about it, after all. What Fishbowl and everyone else ended up writing about was, of course, Piegate ’05 and the drippy drama and flingy fun of it all (Stableford calls the pie episode the “creamy climax” of the lead-up buzz. We were inspired by his, uh, alliteration).

Yet despite the buzziness of it all, Stableford believes that magazine start-ups lead launches of quiet desperation. I’m not entirely sure I agree; everyone at Domino and Radar seemed pretty cheerful, pie notwithstanding. And it’s my experience that hope and delirious optimism can count for a lot at the beginning (otherwise why start anything?). But either way, it’s the buzz that matters. And in the meantime, I want to go to David Haskell’s next party. Especially if there’s a gift bag.

Fear and Launching in New York [Folio]

Related in FishbowlNY:
Domino launch party, and the gift bags that shall live in infamy
Worst. Party. Ever. (aka Adventures in Party Reporting)