CAN ROSIE DO IT AS WELL AS OPRAH & MARTHA?

New Magazine Launches

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The big question asked in Gruner & Jahr USA Publishing's latest gamble is this: Can Rosie do
Copying the format of O and Martha Stewart Living
it as well as Oprah and Martha?

Rosie, the much-hyped reworking of McCall's, hits the newsstands April 3 and is the boldest move of the year for G & J CEO Dan Brewster.

The relaunch weighs in at 268 pages, with 138 pages of advertising. The coverlines -- "At Home with Rosie," "Love a Laugh?" and "Hope for Last Chance Kids" -- accompany a picture of Rosie O'Donnell hugging toothsome cancer survivor and actress Fran Drescher. It's an accurate reflection of the blend of celebrity, earnestness and humor that will define the title.

About 40% of the advertisers in the issue had never advertised in McCall's, among them Calvin Klein, Baby Gap, and Cosmair's Maybelline, according to senior vice president and publisher Sharon Summers. Rosie's rate base is 3.5 million. McCall's was 4.2 million.

Fewer ads in next issues
As with all big launches, Ms. Summers conceded the size of coming June and July issues would "moderate" a bit, and said she wasn't sure if the next issue would even contain 100 ad pages.

Ms. O'Donnell is "trying to not copy what [Martha Stewart and Oprah Winfrey] are doing," said Valerie Muller, senior vice president and director of print services for Grey Global Group's MediaCom, New York, "but copy the successful format."

Ms. O'Donnell herself admitted Ms. Winfrey showed her the way. Two years ago, she said, her lawyer suggested a magazine

Rosie O'Donnell brings wit and celebrity connections to the mix.
would be a great idea, but Ms. O'Donnell, the magazine's editorial director, demurred. "I thought, 'What's the point?' Then O came out and I understood." Unlike Ms. Winfrey, Ms. Summers said Ms. O'Donnell would not be on every cover.

Crafts, recipes, beauty
Although the cover is strongly reminiscent of O, the internal layout still feels more like a traditional women's service magazine, with ads liberally scattered throughout the editorial well. The mix also doesn't stray far from women's service territory, with crafts, recipes and beauty features. Elements Ms. O'Donnell adds to the mix are her wit and her connection to her celebrity circle, including Madonna, Uma Thurman and entertainer Christine Ebersole, who all appear in the first issue.

Asked what her schedule was like, given her talk show, Ms. O'Donnell had one word: "Crazy." She explained she usually made it to Rosie's offices around noon and left to pick up her son from school, adding she was at Rosie's offices about three days a week.

More G&J launches
Meanwhile, more launches could be in the pipeline for G & J.

"We have lots of ideas we're looking at, even with the economy slowing down," said Dan Rubin, G & J's vice president of new business development.

Among the development ideas in play at the company are Friday, a leisure-time title for women headed by former McCall's editor Sally Koslow, and Real People, a fledgling true-stories-based title headed up by former Self editor Alexandra Penney.

Crime title heaved
But one no longer in the lineup is a true-crime title. Starting late last year, the company was in intensive talks with former Life managing editor Jay Lovinger and renowned magazine designer Walter Bernard for Law & Order, a crime-and-justice magazine branded with the title of the immensely popular NBC TV show. Those talks recently ended when the company and the folks behind Law & Order couldn't agree on terms. Insiders familiar with the talks said G & J significantly revised a proposed profit split in the company's favor late in the negotiating process.

"We passed on it for various reasons -- it wasn't just a matter of splitting profits," said Mr. Rubin. "On TV it's exciting," but in print he was less sure, and he expressed concerns over advertisers' chariness about their products appearing alongside crime-scene photos.

Mr. Lovinger, whose project won the blessing of Law & Order creator and executive producer Dick Wolf about six months ago, said those questions were "the ones any intelligent publisher raises," but said Mr. Rubin's response was "a bit disingenuous."

"They made an offer which we turned down," Mr. Lovinger said, without further elaboration.

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