|'Biography' will shed much of its staff, shift to a quarterly and become a house organ for the Biography Club.
Beginning in 2004, the title will shift to a quarterly and become what a company statement calls a "marketing publication." It will serve as a house organ to the newly created Biography Club, a fan club of sorts that the brand will use for ongoing consumer research. Club membership will be free, and members will be culled in part from the magazine's 650,000-plus subscribers.
Biography, launched in 1997, was a stand-alone magazine for A&E, which is owned 37.5% by Hearst Corp., 37.5% by the Walt Disney Co.'s ABC and 25% by General Electric Co.'s NBC. The upcoming change will mean the magazine will no longer be sold on newsstands. The exact publishing model is still being worked out, said Abbe Raven, A&E's executive vice president and general manager, but insiders say it's likely no non-Biography-themed ads will run.
Longtime editor Paulette McLeod will remain at the magazine, but significant layoffs are expected. The magazine will focus more tightly on upcoming subjects from the Biography TV show.
Hearst Magazines had included Biography as an option in corporate ad buys for over a year, but the changes at the magazine look likely to end that relationship. Ms. Raven said A&E will take over distribution duties from Hearst's CoMag unit.
A&E's president-CEO, Nick Davatzes, told staffers at A&E's annual meeting last Dec. 10 that the company was seeking a "strategic partner" for the magazine.
A&E retained media investment banker Veronis Suhler Stevenson to aid in its search. Last December, executives who were familiar with the magazine's financials said the title was unprofitable on revenues of around $20 million. (At the time, an A&E executive declined to comment on the magazine's finances.) No partner materialized, and industry executives familiar with the deal market later said that the magazine had stopped searching. A spokesman declined to comment on the status of the partner search.
For the first half of 2003, Biography's total circulation slipped 2.7% to 705,289, according to Audit Bureau of Circulations figures, and its newsstand sales fell 9.0%. Through July, its ad pages rose 11.8% to 196, according to the Publishers Information Bureau.