women of Asia
A small title targeting an affluent U.S. ethnic group
By Jeff Bercovici
Here’s an experiment: Pick up the latest issue of any women’s fashion magazine. Count the number of Asian-inspired fashions and makeup styles and references to Asian-inspired cuisine, home design, music, workout fads and so on.
Now count the number of Asian faces – if you can find any at all, that is. Don’t be surprised if you can’t.
“If you look at all the hundreds of magazines out there, when you flip through them you rarely see Asians,” says James Ryu, publisher and editor in chief of Audrey magazine.
That was why, earlier this summer, Ryu launched Audrey, the first national women’s magazine aimed at the 10 million or so Asians and Asian-Americans living in the U.S.
Of course, that number reflects not one homogenous population but a wide range of cultures, ethnicities and languages, from Chinese, Japanese and Korean to Indians, Vietnamese and Indonesians. It also includes both U.S.-born Asian-Americans and immigrants who may or may not speak English.
That makes for a huge challenge for Ryu, one not unlike that faced by publishers of other ethnic titles, such as those targeting Hispanics. How do you create a magazine that finds and pulls together a wide range of cultural interests?
Ryu, who also publishes KoreAM Journal, a magazine for Korean-Americans, acknowledges the challenge inherent in speaking to such a diverse readership.
“Koreans and Japanese and Chinese are very much different, but the focus here is on fashion and beauty, which is one area that unifies all these women,” he says.
Named after Ryu’s daughter, Audrey's contents reflect the usual women’s magazine mix of celebrity profiles, beauty and fashion stories, party pictures, advice columns and recipes. While most of the articles are geared to Asian readers, some, especially the relationship advice and home decorating tips, are generic save for their bylines.
Although Asian actors have finally started to infiltrate the Hollywood mainstream in the past five years, beginning with Lucy Liu on “Ally McBeal,” many of the celebrities featured in Audrey will be unfamiliar to the typical reader of People or Us.
Among those profiled in the premiere issue are Tamlyn Tomita, Karin Anna Cheung and Donnie Yen, all of whom can probably go out for lunch in Soho without worrying about paparazzi.
“I think Asians are making some progress in Hollywood, but not enough for someone to just read a publication and visibly see Asians in there,” says Ryu.
Much of the magazine is devoted to beauty and fashion, which in this case means makeup and hairstyles modeled by Asian women and clothing by Chinese, Japanese and even Indian designers.
Headquartered in Gardena, Calif., Audrey is distributed at bookstore chains, including Barnes & Noble and Borders, but its starting circulation is quite small.
The print run for the first three issues was just 10,000 each, with tentative plans to increase distribution following the current August/September issue.
Ryu argues that the outstanding demographic characteristics of Asian-Americans, who have substantially higher median incomes and rates of college education than the overall U.S. population, will make Audrey attractive to national advertisers despite its small size. Budweiser, Hyundai, Piaget and MTV films are among those to run in the magazine so far.
July 15, 2003© 2003 Media Life
-Jeff Bercovici is a staff writer for Media Life.