Spreading not-so-Jolly Cheer

Poison-Pen Letter Aimed at 'Marie Claire'

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- It seems the holidays haven't lifted every heart in the magazine business: Some not-so-brave soul has lately been attacking Marie Claire by anonymously mailing a negative article about it to important advertisers such as L'Oreal.
Gossip victim.
Gossip victim.

The article, a Radaronline.com piece that cites anonymous sources, suggests Editor in Chief Joanna Coles has performed so poorly since taking over in April that owners Hearst Magazines and Marie Claire Album have entered "all-out panic mode."

Marie Claire VP-Publisher Susan Plagemann said she wasn't impressed -- by the article or its second life as a poison-pen letter.

'Irresponsible and inaccurate'
"The writing was irresponsible and inaccurate," she said of the article. "Second of all, when people are nervous and insecure, they do desperate things. Our business is fantastic. Our business has been fantastic every single issue since Joanna Coles has been our editor in chief."

Radar said it stands by its story.

"This undermining mailing has had such a positive effect on my business, and has had the complete reverse effect that the person or persons behind it wanted it to," Ms. Plagemann added. "It motivated people to call me in droves in full support."

Ms. Plagemann and others at Hearst wouldn't identify their suspect.

In magazines' best-known poison-pen incident a few years back, then-Details Publisher Bill Wackermann anonymously mailed around a New York Post article ranking Details above Conde Nast sibling GQ. Now VP-publisher at Glamour, Mr. Wackermann said, "No trips to the post office lately."

From a struggling publisher?
Some speculated that the anti-Marie Claire mailing was more likely to come from a struggling publisher than one at a strong title such as Glamour. Marie Claire competes for readers and ad dollars, to varying degrees, against titles including Elle, InStyle, Glamour, Lucky and Vogue.

Marie Claire's ad pages from January through November totaled 1,191.7, down 1.4% from the equivalent period last year, according to the Publishers Information Bureau. Glamour's ad pages through November totaled 1,693.4 for an increase of 7.3%.

Marie Claire reported average paid and verified circulation of 955,222 for the first half of the year, up 0.4% over first-half 2005, with a 16% decline at newsstand and a 17.9% increase in subscriptions, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.
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