Global expansion mixed bag for mags

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[Rio de Janeiro, Brazil] - International magazine publishers are worrying about the U.S. economy but still see the rest of the world as fertile ground for extending their brands.

At the International Federation of Periodical Publishers (FIPP) conference April 23-27, Chris Llewellyn, international director of U.K. publisher Emap, whose U.S. division is up for sale, said that U.K. mens' magazine FHM is entering new countries "almost on a monthly basis. We're in 14 countries and will be in 20 by year end."

For George Green, president, Hearst Magazines International, the magazine with great potential is Cosmopolitan extension CosmoGirl. He tested it last year with editions in the Czech Republic and Turkey, and will launch CosmoGirl in the U.K. in October, he said. "We'll have six or seven by the end of the year, including Hong Kong and Indonesia," Mr. Green said. The Cosmo brand is being extended in other ways, such as a year-old, 24-hour-a-day cable channel in Spain.

Some magazines' fortunes are mixed. The Industry Standard closed its European joint-venture magazine with Financial Times publisher Pearson Group in April, a month after launching the first Asian edition of The Industry Standard, a joint venture with International Data Group in China called Digital Fortune. A month later, the two companies began publishing a Taiwanese edition called New Economy.

Other publishers offered different formulas for growth. Roberto Civita, chairman-CEO of Latin America's largest publishing company Editora Abril, took advantage of economic stability that created a new lower middle class of consumers in Brazil. Against everyone's advice, Mr. Civita launched a women's monthly called Viva at the end of 1999 priced at just 50 cents. Sales soared to 500,000 copies per week in less than six months. "More than 80% of [Viva] readers had no other magazines at home," he said.

The FIPP Congress was bizarrely split between Rio and Buenos Aires, and on May 1, four days after the Buenos Aires sessions ended, the Argentine government imposed a 21% value-added tax on magazines and newspapers over FIPP protests. In Brazil, the government continues dragging its heels on a long-promised media law allowing 30% foreign ownership of media. Media owners are already betting on what the first deals will be when the law finally passes.

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