New titles look to loosen Meredith's hold on mom

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Two new magazines are set to ratchet up competition in their category-and bless their publishers' hearts, they have nothing to do with celebrities. It's time to brawl over babies.

Fairchild Publications and Disney Publications are joining the siege on parents, who are already beset by subscription offers from American Baby, Baby Talk, Child, Fit Pregnancy, Parents, Parenting and Working Mother -to name just a few.

Fairchild's entry is Cookie, an upscale family-lifestyle magazine to begin publishing every other month starting Nov. 15. In February, Disney will introduce Wondertime, a high-design title broadly focused on children's learning that will begin its life as a quarterly.

Both share an advantage that raiders of other categories do not: Parenting readers turn over with every new crop of kids and every child who ages into a teen. The new titles may also further enliven a category that has already seen its share of action in the last few years. Perhaps most notably, Meredith bought American Baby in 2002, then Parents, Child and Ser Padres this year, making it a muscular mover in a space once split by Time Inc. and Gruner & Jahr Publishing USA.

"This category is going through a welcome revival," said Richard Berenson, publisher at Meredith's Child, which aims to be a maternal one-stop shopping.

But the new entries, each of which promises advertisers 300,000 in total paid circulation, are going up against titans. Child claimed an average total paid circulation of 890,471 during the first half of this year in its statement to the Audit Bureau of Circulations (although that fell below its guarantee to advertisers of 920,000 paying readers). Meredith sibling Parents claimed paid circulation of about 2 million.

David Kieselstein, president of the Parenting Group at Time Inc., said the new titles will serve particular niches but not threaten mega-titles like Parenting itself, which claimed average paid circulation of more than 2 million for the first half of the year. "As with other magazines in the category that go after smaller segments, they may very well be successful with their missions, but we don't view them as direct competitors," he said.

Wondertime will benefit mightily from its parent's power, said Glenn Rosenbloom, senior VP-group publisher, Disney Publishing Worldwide. "We're going to tap into resources within the Walt Disney Co. in a very big way," he said. "There'll be opportunities to subscribe to Wondertime via inserts in appropriate DVD releases, like `Chicken Little,' and then partnerships within the company, like with the Baby Einstein Co. I think it's going to be an edge."

Because Cookie has closed its first issue, it can already point to 92 pages of ads from companies like luxury watchmaker Bedat & Co., DKNY Kids, Burberry and Lexus, many of them new to the category.

"They're defining a different definition of family where we're a little bit older, more sophisticated and more financially secure," said Lisa Newman Levine, communications director at Bedat. "Maybe it's a smaller audience but it's definitely more targeted, and for the brand I represent over here, I'm looking for a sophisticated consumer as well."

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