Hearst Magazines

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The quietest of the Big 3 suddenly seems to be poised to make a lot more noise. The headline for '02 is likely its pickup of the independent shelter title Veranda, for which Hearst paid about $40 million last May. More intriguing is the hiring of former Time Inc. executive John Hartig as a top executive overseeing new titles and acquisitions. The launch of Lifetime comes with a May/June issue, and the travel-theme offshoot of Town & Country, titled Town & Country Travel, comes in October. But enough about '03. Despite a 5.6% slump in ad pages, franchise Cosmopolitan blew out an eye-popping performance on the circ side, with newsstand sales rising 5.8% to break the 2 million barrier in the last half of `02. (Younger sister CosmoGirl saw overall circulation crack 1 million.) Esquire's ad sales continue to be dwarfed by the laddie newcomers as well as longtime rival GQ, but in '02 it showed welcome signs of life, posting double-digit newsstand sales gains for both halves of the year. Flagging?: O, the Oprah Magazine, Ad Age's Magazine of the Year for 2000, is still up 4% in ad pages but losing sales on the circulation side. Weird: In a year when many magazine executives reported feeling pressure to feature Ralph Lauren on their covers (AA, Nov. 18), Town & Country ran him in October, and also featured his daughter Dylan in July. To watch: Harper's Bazaar, the third-place fashion pure-play title under incoming Publisher Valerie Salembier, and oft-overlooked decorative title Victoria, placed in `01 under the purview of Redbook Publisher Jayne Jamison. Another question mark: SmartMoney, Hearst's joint venture with Dow Jones & Co. that's been hit by hemorrhaging ad pages (747.6 in '02 vs. 1,288.7 in '00). Gone and likely not much missed by the top executives of this publicity-averse company: Talk, its improbable co-venture with Miramax Films, shuttered in '02. Missing in action: MTV's Magazine, a co-venture Hearst flirted with last year.

Rating: 3 stars

Best performer:

CosmoGirl

ad pages

up 19.6% to 683.4

circulation

up 27.5% to 1.1 million

Worst performer:

SmartMoney

ad pages

down 13.6% to 747.6

circulation

down 0.1% to 808,752

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