Start-up: Industry eyes are on launch of indie 'Radar'

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The top executives at Radar, the magazine project led by former Talk Editorial Director Maer Roshan, said they now have enough investment capital to go ahead with a launch schedule, and are reaching out to advertisers to sell the first four issues.

Now that it's finishing up a first round of financing-the specific goal of which Radar executives would not disclose-and staffed up with some well-known names, the title faces the challenges of the current environment.

Radar, aimed at hip cosmopolitan types in their twenties and thirties, resembles a literate high-low hybrid of Vanity Fair, Spy, and the Bonnie Fuller-ized Us Weekly. It needs to navigate the extraordinarily tricky path of being smart, hip and, perhaps above all, independent-and succeed.

Readers can decide when the debut issue hits newsstands on April 15. May, June and special Summer issues will follow, and current plans have the title launching on its 18-times-a-year frequency in September. The magazine will distribute between 100,000 and 125,000 copies of its first issues, said Chief Operating Officer Paul Fish. Mr. Fish said a circulation goal was 700,000 by the year 2008-which some observers find wildly optimistic.

Early moves at the title have drawn outsized press attention, which reflects a still-tough magazine environment lean on launches as well as curiosity over what the well-regarded and well-connected Mr. Roshan's next move would be. Among those signed on to contribute are Bret Easton Ellis, Tina Brown, humorist Mark Leyner and sharp, next-generation political writer Jake Tapper. George Lois, who designed Esquire's iconic `60s covers, is consulting on the title as well.

Mr. Roshan stressed that independence from a major magazine company-talks with American Media fell apart just before Christmas, and Time Inc. passed-is a virtue, but it comes at a price. The title must make it in the traditionally tough general interest space without deep pockets to sustain it.

Among the title's backers are former HBO Chairman Michael Fuchs, who did not return a call, and Mr. Roshan and Mr. Fish and their families. Former Brill's Content impressario Steve Brill and hotelier Ian Schrager, as well as a host of European media companies, have also been approached. (Mr. Schrager did respond to a call seeking comment.)

"It's a great looking product," said Mr. Brill, who would not comment on his involvement. "Despite all the odds [Mr. Roshan] has a good shot." But Mr. Brill, whose magazine folded in 2001, conceded the niche Radar attempts is "really difficult."

Mr. Roshan points out that Time Inc.'s People is a general interest magazine. But the higher-brow end of the category encompasses much tougher financial plays like Conde Nast Publications' The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly and Salon.com. The defunct Talk had the backing of Miramax Films and Hearst Magazines.

"There has to be a market for a magazine like this," Mr. Roshan said, "which is irreverent, hip, and geared towards the interests and tone of a new generation." He compared the essence of Radar to a variety of current cultural touchstones, from writers Dave Eggers and Candace Bushnell to HBO.

different take

Mr. Roshan has long promised a different take on celebrity with Radar, one that subverts the dance between increasingly powerful stars' publicists and magazines that desperately need their images to move product. "You don't need access," he said, "you need people who are good reporters."

Distribution will be handled chiefly by Curtis Circulation Co., and Mr. Roshan said the title would "microtarget" retailers in hip enclaves like Los Angeles' Silver Lake. The title's newsstand price is $3.50.

A one-time, full-color ad page rate is $8,500. The magazine is offering a package rate that discounts rates 20% should advertisers commit to the first four issues, and charter advertisers will get a 10% discount in future issues, said Publisher Aaron Sigmond, who has just begun to set up meetings with media buyers.

Mr. Roshan noted that advertisers aren't required to buy all first four issues, mindful of how a similar deal netted Talk significant ill will.

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