In September, four months shy of its 30th anniversary, the monthly will unveil a new look -- Rodale's second attempt to redefine the book since purchasing it from Primedia nearly two years ago.
Contrary to industry buzz that Rodale has been disappointed with the magazine, company executives are out to prove New Woman was a worthy investment. In addition to shifting editorial direction twice, first under former Maxim Editor Clare McHugh and now under Judy Coyne, a former Glamour editor, it also has attempted to stem a decline in ad pages and circulation.
For the last half of 1998, total circulation was flat at 1,179,184, but single copy sales were down 11.2% to 300,566, according to Audit Bureau of Circulations. In the first quarter of this year, ad pages were down 3.4% to 211.63.
This year alone, Rodale will spend $5 million to boost newsstand distribution.
Beginning with the monthly's September issue, the number of copies sent to newsstands will increase from 900,000 to 1.5 million, said John Griffin, magazine division president.
The rate base will drop to 1 million with that issue, he said, reflecting a strategy to rebuild the monthly's circulation on a more profitable footing -- and also in recognition of fewer orders from sweepstakes mailers.
"When we bought the magazine, we knew it would take long-term commitment and a big investment," Mr. Griffin said.
Along with giving up circulation ground, Rodale recognizes that losing some of the advertisers from New Woman's past may be beneficial in the long run.
As soon as the title was purchased, ad page counts declined, partly due to Rodale's policy of banning tobacco and liquor, and in part due to an ad community waiting to see what the new owners would do, said Publisher Laura McEwen.
Now, in an effort to improve the mix of advertising it carries, the magazine is no longer pursuing direct response and lower-revenue advertisers, she said.
The lower ad-page counts don't bother her, Ms. McEwen said, as long as revenue per page is going up.
A color page costs $50,390, and that won't change with the rate base shift.
Rodale's investment includes increasing the weight of the paper stock, to offer a more upscale feel.
"The issue for beauty advertisers has been that even though the demographic of women in their 30s is right for many products, it didn't feel pretty enough or upscale enough to recommend for premium products," said Bonnie Barest, executive director of media services at Publicis, New York, which handles such clients as L'Oreal and Lancome.
L'Oreal recently decided to advertise in the magazine again, Ms. McEwen said, after being out for about a year. Other advertisers are encouraged as well.
"They had a couple of false starts, but now they know where they are going and what they are doing," said Roberta Garfinkle, senior VP-print director for McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York.