Launches Aug. 31: Fairchild enters shopping-title fray

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Six months after sibling Conde Nast Publications launched its men's shopping title Cargo, Fairchild Publications is launching its own, Vitals.

Executives behind Vitals, which hits newsstands Aug. 31, insist it's not merely a shopping magazine, and its approach to the world of commerce-friendly titles is less caption- and product shot-based than the likes of Lucky. This is to say, it has actual articles, like its cover story by sportswriter Dan Shaughnessy about visiting Boston's Fenway Park with actor (and cover model) Matt Damon.

"Shopping is a part of it, but I don't think it stands alone," said Editor Joe Zee, who previously spent nine years as fashion director of Fairchild's women's fashion title W.

Shopping and service are, in fact, a very big part of it. But there's also celeb-on-celeb action, such as Sofia Coppola's photo shoot of Outkast's Andre 3000. There's also a piece on how, to paraphrase Mr. Zee, private art dealers now serve in the status-accessory role once played by personal trainers.

Vitals' launch is in keeping with a Fairchild strategy of publishing more targeted takes on magazine segments served by bigger sibling Conde Nast. It has Details to Conde Nast's GQ, Elegant Bride to Conde Nast's two bridal publications, and W to Vogue. And, now Vitals to Conde Nast's Cargo.

Fairchild claims to reach a higher demographic, but those claims can't always be checked with third-party researcher Mediamark Research Inc. because not all titles are measured.

The launch comes with a tinge of confusion, as oversight was moved in recent weeks from Chris Mitchell, Details' new Publisher-who replaced current Glamour Publisher William Wackermann in that position in April-to Alyce Alston, who's VP-Publisher of Mr. Zee's former home, W. Details' staff sold the first issue and is still selling its next issue, which is on newsstands in late November.

Ms. Alston said she would shortly hire a publisher and dedicated sales staff. Company executives privately suggest concerns arose over whether Details and Vitals compete too closely for the same advertiser base to remain sharing staffers.

Vitals launches with a rate base of 200,000, and around 125,000 copies will hit newsstands; another 160,000 will be mailed to individuals culled from parent Advance Publications' database. The debut issue carries 81 pages of advertising in a 228-page issue. Ms. Alston said fashion was the biggest category. In 2005, Vitals will move to a quarterly schedule.

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