The Biz - Dennis: from bikinis to politics

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In England, Dennis Publishing Chairman Felix Dennis roars about the $30 million he's planning to put into The Week-the 13-month-old weekly news digest he brought to America-as evidence of the skin he's got in this game.

"I can't afford to [expletive] up-it's my money!" howls the man behind laddie title Maxim. "Every million dollars I spend is a million I haven't got to spend on planting trees, having sex, and drinking wine!"

In New York, The Week's General Manager Justin Smith reports the latest-unsolicited-celebrity testimonial to adorn the front cover comes courtesy of Woody Allen: "The Week is perfect for me because it's definitely for movers and shakers, and I can't seem to stop shaking."


In Los Angeles, Pam McNeely, senior VP-group media director, Dailey & Associates is unimpressed. "If you have any exposure to printed media, it's redundant," she says.

So it goes for one of Dennis' latest launches, and arguably its weirdest. Will the media world warm to this current-events geek amid Dennis' sea of bikinis?

Thus far, the evidence is mixed. Blurbs from media heavies ranging from Tina Brown to Bill Maher co-exist with a wildly polarized ad world reaction and a fairly static circulation. In its favor is its leanness. Dennis is known for tight staffs, but The Week's entire staff of about 23 is less than Maxim's editorial. Another is that the edit looks sharp-concise, and reasonably engaging.

"I'm intrigued and impressed," says Melissa Pordy, senior VP-director of print services, Zenith Media. "The business model is good for advertisers, given the high subscription price and the limited advertising inventory." (The Week hawks subs for $75, but a recent offer shaves 33% off.) Circulation sales range between 100,000 and 105,000, says Smith.

"Why hasn't that kicked up a little bit?" asks Marianne Foxley, exec VP-chief investment officer, Starcom North America. Ad pages and circulation remain unaudited, though Steven Colvin, president, Dennis Publishing U.S., says The Week will report its circulation later this year. Colvin also says the rate base will rise 25% to 30% in `03.

This is ambitious, considering Smith's note that while subscription renewal rates were "very, very good," much of the current circulation file is still on six-month trial offers. Smith's circulation goal is between 400,000 and 500,000. Dennis says the title was budgeted to break even in four years and three months from now.

Ad pages were restricted to six per 40-page issue at launch, but they'll increase to nine later this year, says Smith, who said this fall's inventory is almost sold out. Its full-color open page rate is $10,000. Advertisers include Geico Corp., Grey Goose vodka, and Scudder Investor Services.


A recent agreement gave The Week in-room distribution in W's chain of upscale-hipster hotels. W recently began running ads, but Colvin sidestepped detailing that deal. "Reduced rates? I don't know," he said. "But it's a win-win for both sides."

The last attempt at a Week-like magazine in the U.S., a monthly called the National Times, folded shortly after its early `90's launch. This did not faze Colvin. "We've proven," he says "that if an editorial product works in Europe it can be translated to the U.S. market if that need isn't satisfied by an existing product." Dennis says he expects to launch an Australian edition by 2003.

"I know, in the end, this magazine has legs," says Dennis, referring to celebs that blurb it-gratis-every week. "I mean, this is a poxy, tiny magazine!" he chuckles.

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