Time to unwrap title for Wal-Mart

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Time Inc. is expected to formally unveil as early as this week a highly anticipated mass-market women's title that will be distributed exclusively through retail giant Wal-Mart, according to various company insiders.

The top positions have already been filled for the launch, the title of which Time Inc. has kept secret. Now the company is interviewing midlevel candidates to round out the staff. Insiders expect the magazine to make its debut in the fall.

The launch announcement could be followed closely by one on the revival of venerated Life magazine, which would return as a photo-heavy Sunday newspaper supplement. An executive involved in that situation said a decision is expected in less than two weeks on talks with one key potential partner, Tribune Co., which publishes the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune. A Tribune spokesman declined to comment. It's believed that, should Tribune take on Life, it would not affect the publication of either the Times' or the Tribune's existing Sunday magazines.

out of `life'

A Time Inc. spokesman said only, "We have nothing to announce at this point."

The Life project is expected to be run out of the Time magazine arm of the company, headed by President Eileen Naughton. The Wal-Mart project is expected to come under the portfolio of Exec VP Nora McAniff, who, like Time Inc. Chairman-CEO Ann Moore, came out of the People group.

Ms. McAniff was on vacation and could not be reached for comment. Ms. Naughton could not be reached for comment. A Wal-Mart spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment.

aggressive strategy

Those familiar with the Wal-Mart project describe it as mass-market monthly with a low single-copy price, taking a slightly more upscale approach to the niche occupied by newsstand staples such as Bauer Publishing's Woman's World and First for Women.

The moves would mark a more aggressive launch strategy from the largest magazine publisher, although top executives have telegraphed that plan. In an Ad Age interview last December with Don Logan, the chairman of Time Warner's Media & Communications Group who oversees Time Inc., said, "For sure we've got a couple" of launches planned for 2004. Last year the company announced its Southern Progress unit would launch Cottage Living.

The titles come as the company struggles with poor results. A lengthy string of quarterly profit growth at the company was snapped under Ms. Moore last year.

Meanwhile, Essence Communications, which Time Inc. owns 49% of, continues to make moves to staff up a fashion offshoot of flagship Essence, with an eye toward a fall launch. The company imported Canadian editor Suzanne Boyd, who is interviewing potential staffers.

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