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Hearst gambles on weekly for women

By Published on .

Hearst Magazines undertakes a major financial gamble this summer as it launches its first U.S. weekly, a low-cost women's service title dubbed Quick & Simple.

By dint of its frequency, Quick & Simple becomes the boldest move into the low-cost women's service niche-as well as the most expensive. An industry executive pegged the costs of such a launch as being between $40 million and $70 million. "It's going to cost real money," said Cathleen Black, president, Hearst Magazines, without commenting on specifics, but, she added "think Parade. Think USA Weekend, the production values and the efficient printing operations of those vs. a glossy."

Descriptions by Ms. Black and other insiders place the title firmly in the vein of Time Inc.'s All You and Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S.'s For Me.

Editing the project is Susan Toepfer, a veteran of Time Inc.'s People and the final editor of Gruner & Jahr USA Publishing's ill-fated Rosie. After Rosie ceased publishing, Ms. Toepfer worked on developing a U.S. version of G&J's weekly celebrity title Gala. Bernadette Healy, a former publisher of Reader's Digest and the launch publisher of Rodale's Organic Style, will be the publisher.

The launch of Quick & Simple testifies to how magazine publishers are seeking any category for growth. The low-cost magazines produced by Bauer Publishing USA have proved a rare industry bright spot on newsstands. Each issue of its weekly Woman's World sells over 1.5 million copies on newsstands. (Woman's World retails for a mere $1.49; Ms. Black said Quick & Simple's price was not yet set but would be "in the mass-price range.") Among a category that's seen wrenching drops in newsstand sales, Bauer's key titles in that space have maintained or even increased single-copy sales.


Ms. Black said "we expect this to be if not 100% newsstand, then 99% newsstand. It is not a subscription model." She spoke of a 56-page magazine with only six or seven ad pages. (Ad-page rates and initial distribution have yet to be determined.)

Weekly publishing is not for the faint of heart. In 2000 Jann Wenner confidently predicted that it would take but $50 million to convert his monthly Us to weekly frequency. But in March 2001 he sold half of the magazine to Walt Disney Co. for a cash infusion of $35 million. Prior to the Disney deal, Mr. Wenner memorably reflected that "putting out a couple million [copies] every goddamned week" sometimes means money "pours out like a sieve."

Do advertisers need another women's title? "A year ago I didn't think there was space for any more of the same genre. It appears that the American woman seems to be relentless in her quest for new publications that give her quick, helpful advice," said Steve Greenberger, Zenith Media's senior VP-director of print media, who said he hadn't yet seen Quick & Simple. "It's a lot more insatiable than I thought."

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