Victoria Lasdon Rose

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"I love the hunt," says Victoria Lasdon Rose, publisher of Wenner Media's Us Weekly. Though she was talking about her penchant for searching out art and antiques, the statement clearly fits her business style as well.

It takes a certain drive to capture double-digit ad page growth for three years running-especially when you're running a weekly celebrity magazine in a celebrity-magazine packed world. But Ms. Rose, 48, has done just that.

A self-described "brand developer and troubleshooter," Ms. Rose joined Us Weekly from style365.com, a luxury Web site, in 2000. The former publisher of YM and Mademoiselle, she took over a title that was struggling with its new life as a weekly.

Most industry watchers said, "nearly unanimously," that the plan "would be Jann [Wenner]'s Vietnam," says Kent Brownridge, general manager of Wenner. "Maybe we were stubborn, dumb, or arrogant but we did it anyway. It didn't work at first but now it has exceeded our original plans."

He adds that "the plan was always correct" but it took about "18 more months than we thought it would."

"The magazine certainly has changed. She's got a vital product there," says Charles Rutman, president of New York-based Carat USA. Several Carat clients, including CBS Television Network, Pfizer and Viacom's MTV, have run ads in Us Weekly. Mr. Rutman says Ms. Rose is a problem solver who "will come in and look for a way to calm a tense situation or seek a compromise. That's a good skill."

According to Publishers Informa- tion Bureau, Us Weekly ad pages through July are up 24.5% to 874.4 over the same period last year. Ad dollars for the period were up 47.3% over 2003. The title's circulation is also climbing; for the six months ended June 30, the total paid circulation was 1,351,163, up 17% from the same '03 period. Single-copy sales also rose; for the first half of 2004, they were 745,887, up from 698,633 in the second half of 2003.

The title's biggest ad categories are entertainment, which makes up 22% of pages, and beauty, currently at 20% of total pages. "There is hardly an advertised [TV] network or cable group we don't carry," says Ms. Rose. The broadcast and cable networks "appreciate our ability to connect with our audience quickly." The ad team has also made "a tremendous amount of progress" in automotive, she says.

Surprisingly, the magazine's growth follows last year's exit of controversial Editor Bonnie Fuller, who left for American Media's Star. Ms. Rose says Ms. Fuller leaving was a "non-event" with advertisers, and that in the first week she introduced new Editor Janice Min to more than 200 clients. Single-copy sales climbed 38% in the first six months of Ms. Min's reign, Ms. Rose says, and ad pages increased 20% last year.

Because of the celeb-driven content, Us Weekly tends to get lumped with Bauer Publishing's In Touch Weekly or the Star. Ms. Rose says the title's competitive set includes Time Inc. giants People and Entertainment Weekly because those are the "weekly entertainment magazines with the closest demographics" to Us Weekly. The Wenner title's median age is 32, median household income is $77,000, and 79% of readers are college educated. Ms. Rose says the income level came as a welcome surprise.

Among the Wenner stable, home of Rolling Stone and Men's Journal, Us Weekly currently ranks No. 1 in circulation but No. 2 in revenue and profitability. "Within two years, it will be No. 1 in all three," says Mr. Brownridge.

"People makes over $300 million a year in profit," says Mr. Brownridge. "While we're doing quite well, that's what we're thinking about."

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