American Media: Pecker takes on 'Real Simple'

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American Media Chairman-CEO David Pecker has ambitious plans for his newly acquired Boston-based title Natural Health.

Last week, he laid off all 27 staffers, including its entire editorial staff, as the first salvo towards repositioning Natural Health, effective with its October issue, as a competitor for the newly hot healthy-lifestyle space occupied by the likes of the Hearst Magazines/Harpo Productions co-venture O, The Oprah Magzine, as well as Time Inc.'s Real Simple and Health.

"I'm going to try to give Real Simple a run for its money," Mr. Pecker proclaimed from his company's Florida headquarters. Staffers were told the news in a midmorning meeting with American Media VP-General Manager Larry Bornstein and personnel head Daniel Rotstein.

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

October debut

Existing staffers will work through early July to finish up Natural Health's September issue, while the new staff will ready the October redesign. Existing staffers did not return calls seeking comment.

The rate base, or circulation guaranteed to advertisers for Natural Health, is 300,000. Mr. Pecker said American Media's extensive distribution, courtesy of its heavy newsstand sellers The Star and National Enquirer, meant the rate base should be able to be moved up to 500,000. Health and Real Simple, Mr. Pecker pointed out, each claim rate bases well above 1 million.

Not all moves into the Real Simple/O space have equaled those titles' success. Rodale's Organic Style, launched in 2001, has yet to have its circulation audited (it claims a rate base of 600,000), and averaged under 45 ad pages for each of its six issues last year.

Mr. Pecker also plans to resurrect Weider's defunct Living Fit, aimed at women over 45, for three special issues beginning in September, as well as upgrading Muscle & Fitness and Men's Fitness.

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