new titles in '04
Credit the growth imperative--chasing new ad $s
By Jeff Bercovici
Over the last couple years, most publishers have seemed more interested in folding magazines than launching them.
That's about to change.
Going into 2004, major U.S. publishing houses are planning launches of big new titles.
Time Inc. will launch two new magazines, as will Gruner + Jahr USA, one likely being an American version of the celebrity title Gala that would compete with such heavyweights as People and Us Weekly.
Conde Nast will introduce a men's version of Lucky, its young women's shopping magazine, and Hearst will launch a women's style title incorporating elements of Lucky and InStyle.
Also expect a slew of launches from smaller publishing houses, making 2004 a bumper year for new magazines.
Certainly one driving force behind the new launches is the recovery in magazine advertising, but that may have less to do with it than what might be called the growth imperative.
Much as they might like to wait until conditions are ideal to introduce new products, publishers know that doing nothing puts them at risk of being ill positioned for the next ad boom, says consultant Marty Walker of Walker Communications.
"They've all been sitting on the sidelines for a couple years now," says Walker, with the exception of Hearst and Lifetime magazine. "If you don't grow and remain stagnant, you really fall behind."
Many of the biggest and most profitable magazines, especially in the women's field, are decades old, and a number of them have been losing circulation.
"They're not going to fold them, but they don't have the same potential for growth that a new property would," says Walker.
By creating new magazines to tap new or underserved ad categories, publishers hope not just to compete with each other but with other forms of media as well, especially cable TV.
Meanwhile, the other avenue of growth, acquiring new titles, is less attractive than it was several years ago, says consultant Steve Rosenfield of Media Resource Group.
"After the frenzy of acquisitions a few years ago a lot of what was on the market was either sold or taken off the market," says Rosenfield.
What remains is by and large overpriced, the lingering result of a media marketplace that saw titles like Fast Company and Business 2.0 selling for hundreds of millions of dollars two years ago.
"There's fewer sales now because they can't get anywhere near what the value was a couple of years ago, at the top of the market," says Rosenfield. "If somebody said the value of your business is a dollar, and that was three years ago, you’re always going to remember it as a dollar, even if it's only worth 20 cents now."
If it materializes, next year’s biggest launch would probably be Gala, which is being developed by Susan Toepfer, a former People editor whose hiring at Rosie resulted in Rosie O’Donnell breaking with Gruner + Jahr.
Launching a weekly is a hugely expensive undertaking, but Bauer Publishing has had some success with its new celebrity weekly, InTouch.
Time Inc. was mulling a new celebrity weekly of its own under the direction of former Details editor Bill Shapiro, who appears to have taken the project over from Carol Wallace, ex-managing editor of People.
But Time Inc. CEO Ann Moore, speaking this week at the World Magazine Congress in Paris, seemed to hint that Time Inc. is leaning away from green-lighting that project. She said that the new titles would probably fall into the niches of women’s lifestyle, music, humor or the lad genre.
One of the launches, she said, will probably be a U.S. version of a title published by IPC, Time Inc.’s British subsidiary. Its roster of titles includes the lad magazine Loaded and the women’s lifestyle book Living Etc.
May 30, 2003© 2003 Media Life
-Jeff Bercovici is a staff writer for Media Life.