STAFF FIRED AS 'NATURAL HEALTH' GETS NEW LOOK

American Media Magazine to Go Up Against 'Real Simple,' 'O'

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Publishing company American Media today laid off the editorial staff of its newly acquired Boston-based Natural Health magazine in preparation of the title's repositioning within the industry's hot health-and-lifestyle space.

The move is part of an ambitious plan by American Media's chairman-CEO, David Pecker, who picked up the title when he acquired Weider Publications for $350 million last December, to relaunch the magazine in October to go up against Heart Magazine's O, The Oprah Magazine and Time Inc.'s Real Simple and Health.

'A run for its money'
"I'm going to try to give Real Simple

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a run for its money," Mr. Pecker proclaimed from his company's Florida headquarters. Natural Health staffers were told the news in a mid-morning meeting with American Media's vice president and general manager, Larry Bornstein, and personnel head, Daniel Rotstein.

Twenty-seven staffers were laid off. Existing staffers will work through early July to finish Natural Health's September issue, while a new staff will ready the relaunch.

Consolidating offices
American Media will move the title's editorial operations to Weider's Woodland Hill, Calif., offices and begin searching for a new editorial team. That team, like the previous one, will report to Barbara Harris, American Media's senior vice president and editorial director of Weider Active Lifestyle Group, which oversees Shape, Fit Pregnancy and Natural Health. Mr. Pecker said he expected to hire a new editorial staff of 35 and spend around $5 million to relaunch Natural Health.

Mr. Pecker pointed out that Natural Health was the sole Weider title with editorial operations based outside of Woodland Hills. Other Weider titles include Flex, Muscle & Fitness and Men's Fitness

Rate base to increase
The rate base, or circulation guaranteed to advertisers, for Natural Health is currently 300,000. Mr. Pecker said American Media's extensive distribution, courtesy of its ownership of heavy newsstand sellers The Star and National Enquirer, means the company should soon be able to move the rate base up to 500,000. Health and Real Simple, Mr. Pecker said, each claim circulation of well more than 1 million.

Mr. Pecker's plan to reposition Natural Health is not without precedent for his company. After he acquired the newsstand tabloids that are the backbone of American Media, he spoke about transforming The Star as a competitor to Time Inc.'s People.

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