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Maer Roshan on
the rebirth of Radar

Editor talks about how his magazine will be unique

By Lorraine Sanders

    The return of Radar, coming at the end of May, has been widely talked about since founder and and editor-in-chief Maer Roshan announced last fall that he'd finally found backers in Mort Zuckerman, publisher of the New York Daily News and U.S. News & World Report, and Wall Street financier Jeffrey Epstein. Roshan, a former editor at New York and Tina Brown's Talk, has assembled a team of big-name writers and editors that includes "Sex and the City's" Candace Bushnell, New York Times Magazine contributor Benoit Denizet-Lewis and Gawker.com editorial director Choire Sicha. New names seem to pop up daily. Will Radar become the next must-read for America's young and affluent urbanites? The sense of magazine people is that if any one editor can pull off such an ambitious launch, it is Roshan, based on his resume and the two issues of Radar that were published in 2003 before he ran out of money. But what will Radar be, what kind of magazine? To get a better sense of that, Media Life talks to Roshan.

First things first. What did you learn from putting together the first two issues of Radar?

   I learned a lot about patience and about fundraising and about publishing--more than I wanted to, actually. I learned about living on a budget. 
   I learned that it's difficult to get an independent magazine off the ground, especially during an advertising recession. I also learned that anything is possible if you want it badly enough.

What will you do differently the second time around?

   I'm insisting on a salary.

Will readers see a reprisal of any Talk elements in the new Radar?

    Sure, we're not totally reinventing the wheel here. They'll also see elements of New York and Details and Interview and all the other publications I've been involved with and influenced by. 
   The truth is, any creative venture borrows certain aspects from the past, but I think we've put them together in a way that's really unique and relevant to our audience.

Radar has positioned itself as a magazine that will sit at the intersection of general interest, celebrity and urban edge titles like Interview and Black Book. With such a range of content, how will you keep your editorial mission focused and easy to distinguish from other magazines targeting a similar audience (25-39, highly educated, urban and affluent)?

   We have a very focused vision of our audience, because the magazine is aimed at the same demographic as the staff who put it together. Radar is targeted at an educated, urban readership of twenty and thirtysomethings that currently has no smart general-interest magazine to call its own. 
    I'm very confident that our design, sense of humor and sensibility will resonate with them.

How do you plan to balance editorial content so that it remains appealing to both genders? Can you give me specific examples of planned content that will appeal to both men and women?

   We try to keep most of our content as broad as possible. Very few of our stories are gender-specific.
    Instead we favor profiles, interviews and investigative reports that will be interesting to a wide swath of readers, whether it's a funny, gossipy riff on Lindsay Lohan or a deeply reported account of the daily lives of soldiers in Iraq.

In your media kit, you describe your target audience as "inundated by media and wary of hype, skeptical of everything they watch or read." In such a crowded media landscape, how do you plan to make Radar a significant part of your target readers' media diet?

   By giving them content that's honest and smart and sexy and funny--and by speaking to them in an authentic voice they can relate to.
   It's true that there are a lot of magazines out there, but many seem trapped in some luxe fantasy world that's disengaged from most reader's lives.
   Television shows from "Sex and the City" to "The Daily Show" have proved that there is a large, discerning young audience for content that's urban and edgy and irreverent and smart. I have no doubt that a magazine conceived in the same spirit can be successful as well.

Considering Radar's interest in reaching the early-adopter, influential reader, it sounds like a Radar blog might be in order. Any plans for that?

   We not only have plans for a Radar blog but an entire Radar web site that will serve up news, gossip and fresh content each day.
   Many magazines use the web as a repository for their magazine content. Radar's will more or less function as its own separate entity, though obviously one that mirrors the irreverent, energetic sensibility of the magazine. 
   We've signed up a slew of impressive contributors that will attract a broad base of readers and thrown in the requisite bells and whistles to keep them coming back.

In general, what do you think about blogs being part of a print magazine's peripheral offerings?

   Having spent seven years at a weekly, I am sometimes bored to death by the slow pace of life at monthlies, which have slowly lost relevance and impact.
   I want Radar to be more than just a lifestyle book. I want it to be a provocative, irreverent and newsy part of the ongoing cultural conversation. Making and breaking news is a huge part of the magazine's mandate. Now that the news cycle is moving more quickly, I think a daily presence is more important than ever.
    We've devoted a lot of time and energy to the web site, which I hope will be reflected in its content. So I've always seen the web as a central plank of this venture, not at all a peripheral one.

I've heard that Radar's advertising sales will be handled by U.S. News & World Report's Bill Holiber. If that's true, how do you feel about your magazine's advertising sales being handled by another magazine's sales team?

   Radar has an independent sales staff with offices around the country, spearheaded by senior vice president, chief marketing and sales officer Elinore Carmody, who has a phenomenal track record at a long list of magazines. Given Bill Holiber's experience, his role with U.S. News and his relationship with Mort, he will advise and assist as needed.

You've assembled an all-star line-up to help you make Radar happen. What is special about this team? How will they make Radar the magazine you want it to become?

   Ultimately, any editor is only as good as the people around him. With the exception of Richard Christiansen, the excellent creative director who arrived here from Suede, most of our top staff are people I've known and worked with for years. I can honestly say that in terms of their talent and sensibility and energy and dedication, I couldn't imagine a better team.
   Many of them gave up great positions at other magazines to come here, out of a frustration with the existing magazines on the newsstand and a desire to create something really new. 
   In the end it's working and conceiving things with them that makes this job so fun. Ultimately that's what makes this whole journey worthwhile.

April 12, 2005 2005 Media Life

- Lorraine Sanders is a staff writer for Media Life.

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