Lack of voice silences 'Mlle.'

By Published on .

Most Popular
The publisher of Conde Nast Publications' Mademoiselle said she doesn't fault advertisers for not supporting a magazine that didn't have a clear editorial positioning.

"I completely respect" advertisers' pocketbook vote against the 66-year-old monthly, said Lori Burgess, who left Conde Nast after the privately held publishing company announced the magazine's November issue would be its last. "They are going to support products they think are winners, products with track records. We were attempting to build one."

searching for a voice

In her first interview after the magazine was shuttered, Ms. Burgess admitted, "The book's been attempting to find an editorial voice for quite some time. As a result of the evolutionary state the magazine was in, it was not considered a market leader."

Last year, Conde Nast recruited well-regarded British Cosmopolitan editor Mandi Norwood to turn around Mademoiselle. Ms. Norwood, who also left Conde Nast with the shutdown, tried to position the magazine as "The Magazine for Your Me Years," emblazoning that statement on the cover, a move that garnered criticism inside and outside the magazine. Ms. Norwood did not respond to calls for comment.

News of the closing was broken to sales staffers Oct. 1 at a 9:30 a.m. meeting with Conde Nast President-CEO Steven T. Florio. Editorial Director James Truman told edit-side staffers at a 10 a.m. meeting. Staffers at Mr. Florio's meeting said he spoke of large-scale advertiser defections for the December issue. At an Oct. 3 meeting of Conde Nast publishers, Mr. Florio told attendees Mademoiselle's December issue would only have carried 25 ad pages, said one executive at the meeting. A spokeswoman confirmed Mr. Florio's comments about departing advertisers, but would not comment on an ad page figure. Through the spokeswoman, Mr. Florio declined comment.

Through August, the title's ad pages were down 17.6% to 500.6, according to the Publishers Information Bureau. In 2000, a year in which the average magazine tracked by PIB posted a 10.1% ad page gain, the title's ad pages dropped 19.6%.

Rumors of the title's imminent demise had long been rife throughout the corridors of Conde Nast. There are obvious titles within the Conde Nast and sibling Fairchild Publications empire that stood to capitalize on the disappearance of Mademoiselle-new launch Lucky, Fairchild's Jane, and longtime cashbox Glamour, which ended up with Mademoiselle's subscriber list. Conde Nast executives had long considered other scenarios for Mademoiselle, including folding its assets into Jane or Lucky.

Mademoiselle had a total circulation of 1,153,438, according to Audit Bureau of Circulations figures for January through June, including 850,223 subscribers, but Glamour will raise its rate base just 100,000 to 2.2 million.

While some key Conde executives were aware of the plan to shut the title, Ms. Burgess said she was not one of them. "My boss and I had an appointment Monday morning," she said. "At this one, I was told the magazine would be closing."

rich history

Earlier this year, Ms. Burgess considered-and ultimately rejected-an overture to become publisher at Wenner Media's Rolling Stone. "I felt Mademoiselle still had potential," she said.

While the title had a history rich enough to boast alums like Sylvia Plath, in recent years Mademoiselle floundered about for an identity. High hopes were placed upon the arrival of Ms. Norwood. But despite what Ms. Burgess called a "relaunch" upon her arrival with the August 2000 issue, and a redesign courtesy of Creative Director Andy Cowles that came with this year's April issue-as well as a front-of-the-book redesign for its final November issue-the title never turned around in the eyes of advertisers.

"It didn't have a point of differentiation. It was sort of like a lost soul," said Melissa Pordy, senior VP-director of print at Zenith Media, New York, "trying to reinvent itself and find out who they were." Ironically, a client of Ms. Pordy's, which she would not identify, was on tap for a multi-page insert for the December issue. That issue, she said, would have broken a new category for the title.

Conde Nast said it will try to find jobs for some of the magazine's 93 staffers, but expectations on that count, in the current environment, are low.

In this article: