To Launch, Perchance to Dream

New Titles From Wenner, Niche Media and Hearst

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Amidst print media's, shall we say, challenging economical climate, magazine publishers are scrambling to retain subscribers and stop hemorrhaging ad pages while scrapping budgets. But four well-known print players are bucking the trend and expanding those budgets for new launches.
Niche Media, purveyors of more than 20 large format titles that celebrate luxury lifestyles in major cities across the country, is gearing up for the release of its latest venture, Michigan Avenue, in Chicago.
Niche Media, purveyors of more than 20 large format titles that celebrate luxury lifestyles in major cities across the country, is gearing up for the release of its latest venture, Michigan Avenue, in Chicago.

The Wall Street Journal's inaugural glossy iteration has already made its debut; Niche Media is preparing for its latest title rollout on Monday; Us Weekly is planning a quarterly spinoff of its supermarket staple; and Hearst is getting into the epicurean game.

Successful categories
While these releases might not signal a resurrection of print, that they're being released at all is a positive sign. But the strategy seems to be to target categories that have demonstrated vibrant ad-page growth. For instance, three of the rollouts, such as Rupert Murdoch's WSJ, plan to rely heavily on fashion advertisers.

Niche Media, purveyors of more than 20 large format titles that celebrate luxury lifestyles in major cities across the country, is gearing up for the release of its latest venture, Michigan Avenue, in Chicago.

Michigan Avenue's first issue features a sizeable 360 pages, 160 of which are ad pages from Aston Martin, Dom Perignon, Harry Winston and the like. Niche Media CEO Jason Binn said the magazine has already grossed more than $3 million in advertising within a six-month period, and stands as the property's largest launch to date.

"It's been a business model that's been growing every year," Mr. Binn said regarding the lifestyle category. "We're staying on its course."

Niche Media has steadily introduced at least one new magazine a year over the past eight years, including its New York brand, Gotham, in 2001, Los Angeles Confidential in 2002 and titles for Atlanta, Las Vegas and Miami, among others. And while its contemporaries are shearing expenditures, Niche Media has expanded its headquarters, to a 50,000-square-foot space.

A high-brow incarnation
Us Weekly will attempt to taste the fruits of the luxury vine as well, expanding its franchise with a yet unnamed quarterly spinoff. Publisher Jann Wenner's high-brow incarnation of his popular splashy celebrity gossip roundup is expected to give readers a guide to the styles of celebrities who normally appear in its pages.

Much as WSJ is a response to The New York Times' successful T, Mr. Wenner's spinoff is seen as a challenger to People magazine's StyleWatch, which began as a column in the magazine before expanding in 2002 to a twice-a-year special edition and then, starting in 2007, publishing 10 times a year with its own editorial staff. StyleWatch this year raised its guaranteed circulation by 100,000 to 650,000 and now sells more copies on the newsstand than more established fashion monthlies such as Elle and Vogue.

Hearst's publishing partnership with the Food Network to produce the simply named Food Network Magazine is going after a different set of advertisers.

"We saw an opening in the epicurean field for a unique product," Michael Clinton, exec VP-chief marketing officer and publishing director for Hearst. "It is such a powerful brand today in America."

300,000 copies of Food Network
The first issue will clock in at 160 pages, 50 of them ad pages featuring JCPenney, Kraft, Unilever and other such household names. Two test issues are slated for October and January, respectively, each with a considerably cautionary 300,000 copies.

The Food Network partnership is likely to shore up the Hearst lineup, which is heavy in women's interest titles but decidedly void in a dedicated culinary presence. Hearst had ventured into the TV-to-print model before, with ESPN the Magazine, O, the Oprah Magazine and the now-defunct Lifetime.

Food Network Magazine will be promoted though subscription cards in the two test issues and other Hearst titles, direct mail and the cable network's online and on-air properties. Mr. Clinton said a decision about a full rollout and frequency, including the appointment of a publisher and sales force, would be made after the test period.
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