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Conde Nast women's sports title delays its rookie season

By Published on .

After staffing up for a launch next spring, Conde Nast Sports for Women's introduction was delayed by company Chairman S.I. Newhouse Jr. until the fall of '97.

That means Conde Nast Publications' proposed every-other-monthly will have a 22-person editorial staff on board for a year before the first issue rolls off the presses.

The setback is the latest blow to the magazine, following a lawsuit filed by a rival women's sports title last month.

Sports for Women Publisher Deanna Brown said the delay came because "Mr. Newhouse has historically launched magazines in the fall and with the success of [newly relaunched] Conde Nast House & Garden, he wanted to launch this in the fall as well."

Some Conde Nast insiders said Mr. Newhouse, known as "Si," also had concerns about pitching two start-up magazines to ad agencies at the same time--especially when both carry the Conde Nast name as part of their titles.

ABUZZ OVER POSTPONEMENT

Whatever the reason, the sports title's delay has the industry grapevine buzzing.

"The rumor I heard is that Si saw the prototype and did not like it," said Michael Carr, president-CEO of Weider Publications, which plans to launch its own women's sports title, Jump--aimed at a younger audience than the Conde Nast title--in the fall of '97.

"That's not true," said Sports for Women Editor Lucy Danziger. "Si has loved the pages he's seen."

Ms. Brown said she is aiming at women in their 20s and 30s with a median household income of around $40,000.

Last month, the pending Conde Nast title came under fire from Sports Traveler, a women's magazine about to publish its fourth issue through an independent publishing company headed by Polly Perkins.

In a suit filed in federal District Court in New York, Ms. Perkins claims Conde Nast has violated Sports Traveler's trade dress--through similar direct mail pitches and other acts--and engaged in "predatory and deceptive acts."

The launch delay "has absolutely nothing to do with the lawsuit," Conde Nast's Ms. Brown said. "Mr. Newhouse just felt it would be better to launch in the fall so that we're not trying to publish in the summer when you have those really thin issues."

INVITED TO MEET NEWHOUSE

Ms. Perkins in court papers said that in December 1995, shortly after the first issue of her magazine appeared, she was invited to meet with Conde Nast President-CEO Stephen T. Florio and Mr. Newhouse to discuss a purchase of her magazine. After talking to her, she said they decided to launch their own magazine drawing on many of her ideas.

She said Conde Nast also lured Ms. Danziger, who had worked on the launch of Sports Traveler, to edit its magazine.

"Yes, I did meet with her," Mr. Florio told Ad Age recently. "No, I did not expect to be sued because of it."

Attorneys for Conde Nast parent Advance Publications, in a response filed Aug. 21, claim the suit is without merit.

"Competition between two competitors in an industry is to be expected . . . Plantiff is simply trying to keep defendant from a sector of the magazine industry into which other numerous entries are apparently planned in a wrongful attempt to maintain its position in the market," said a statement filed by Advance attorney Lawrence Rosenthal.

MORE COMPETITION

Conde Nast's delay may open the door for more competition.

Hearst Magazines has been discussing the idea of jointly launching a women's sports title with Mariah Publications, parent to Outside.

"I think it's a tantalizing idea," said Lawrence Burke, president and editor in chief of Outside. "We've been discussing an alliance . . . but we don't have any tight deadline."

Copyright August 1996 Crain Communications Inc.

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