Special Report: 'Talk' a work in progress

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Talk about hype.

Tina Brown, co- founder and editor of Talk, started a snowball of publicity when she declared in February 1999 her new publication would become "one of the most widely read and one of the most influential magazines in the marketplace today."

Its August debut was heralded by a still-discussed launch party at the Statue of Liberty. The first cover starred first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Expectations had built to a fever pitch, and the September issue was a newsstand blockbuster. It sold 75% of its print run, and Talk was hot throughout September. The future looked dazzling for the fledgling title, jointly owned by Hearst Magazines and Miramax Films along with Talk Media, a Miramax-owned venture encompassing the book-publishing operation Talk Miramax Books.

Then, October newsstand sales declined. Shortly afterward, the magazine went into rehab mode, as key editors were replaced.

But advertising for Talk has remained bountiful; advertisers were required to commit to the first four issues. The title reaped a total of 456 pages for those four issues.

Publisher Ron Galotti says Talk has 70 pages of ads for the April issue; he adds Talk delivered a rate base of 500,000 for each of the first four issues, and the rate base will rise to 600,000 in August.

Although Ms. Brown promised that Talk would "reflect and shape the American conversation," it may take a little longer than planned to cast the type of shadow she had in mind. But talk is easy.

Copyright March 2000, Crain Communications Inc.

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