Hearst explores men's weekly with 'Maxim' vet

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Hearst Corp. is exploring the launch of a weekly men's magazine on the heels of similar titles' success in the U.K.

If the magazine-being developed by former Maxim Editor Keith Blanchard, Advertising Age has learned-gets the green light, it will introduce a new men's category to the U.S. and continue a transformation of Hearst, known for years as a conservative publisher of glossy monthlies.

Last month, Hearst revealed plans for a summer launch of a low-cost weekly women's-service magazine-its first weekly title in the U.S.-called Quick & Simple (AA, March 7).

Those familiar with the men's project cautioned it was early in its development process. It's unclear what the tenor of Mr. Blanchard's proposed title would be, but observers expect it will draw DNA from his lad-title background. In the U.K., weekly lad titles Nuts (published by Time Inc.'s IPC unit) and Zoo (published by Emap) have succeeded quickly and splashily, and provide a notable bright spot to a laddie-title market in the U.K. that's seen flat-lining circulation.

Although Hearst is far from Maxim publisher Dennis Publishing in tone, some of its titles do not shy away from sexually charged topics. This is, after all, a company that sells 2 million copies of Cosmopolitan on newsstands each month. In its most recent issue, Hearst's most-highbrow title, Esquire, ran a "lingerie preview."

A Hearst spokeswoman denied Mr. Blanchard was a Hearst employee, and later stated in an e-mail that Mr. Blanchard "has a short-term consulting assignment on a couple of undisclosed projects at Hearst. ... We always have a number of magazine ideas in development but we have nothing to discuss at this point."

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A call to Hearst headquarters yields a number where Mr. Blanchard may be contacted, but he referred all inquiries back to the company.

American publishers have watched with great interest as the new British men's weeklies have succeeded, as they seek to invert a U.S. circulation model that skews heavily in favor of subscription sales. Newsstand successes of next-generation weeklies like Wenner Media's Us Weekly and Bauer Publishing's In Touch have spawned additional entrants into that space. It's true that laments over a broken newsstand model are rarely far from magazine executives' mouths. But given their current challenges-a still-intemperate ad climate and greatly magnified scrutiny of subscription sources-newsstand sales may suddenly represent a newly attractive source of potential revenue.

Mr. Blanchard was editor of Maxim for four years before being replaced by Ed Needham, the former top editor of FHM and Rolling Stone, last July. He was then named Dennis Publishing's director of programming before leaving the company entirely last fall.

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