Alyce Alston

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Don't expect Alyce Alston simply to repeat her winning ways at O, the Oprah Winfrey magazine, now that she's moved down the alphabet to W.

"I'm not going to duplicate the `Oprah upfront'; that would be boring," she says. "But there's a lot of opportunity to bring advertisers closer to our customers, not just through ad pages."

She's been W's publisher all of a month, but already, Ms. Alston, 36, is dreaming of new ways to bring advertisers into the pages of W, which is up 1.8% over last year to 1,010 ad pages.

"I'm going to have a grand time putting together programs and marketing that brings marketers closer to this audience," she says.

As publisher, Ms. Alston presided over the launch of O, which industry executives call the most successful launch in magazine history in terms of both ad pages and revenue. Its debut issue sold out the initial press run so quickly, another 500,000 copies had to be printed to meet demand. The September issue carries 320 pages, 170 of them ads.

Ms. Alston created the "Oprah upfront," preselling the first three months of ad pages for the new magazine, an idea she borrowed from the TV advertising upfront market. Available inventory for the first three months sold out; it is the first time this selling approach has been used in the magazine industry.

"Alyce always has something innovative up her sleeve," says Matina Karadiakos, senior principal-media director on the L'Oreal USA account at Optimedia International, New York. "She's very strategic and has a long-term vision -- she's not just looking to have you buy an ad page from her."

What's most important, Ms. Alston says, is that she's been given an opportunity to "rewrite" the rules. "I don't accept the status quo," says Ms. Alston. "Everywhere I've worked, I've increased the business because I rewrite the rules. I created the `Oprah upfront,' a completely new way of bringing in business, and I do believe it was a key element in having a successful launch. Today, people tell me, `Oh, the magazine's so successful, it must have been so easy.' I've got to tell you, I like people thinking that I make it look easy."

"She's very smart, creative, enthusiastic, and she always surprises you with what she's thinking," says Michael McNamara, worldwide president of Neutrogena, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson. "She brings new insight into understanding what your issues are and your point of view and adds to it a creative element that is tailored to your particular situation."

Prior to O, Ms. Alston was publisher of Gruner & Jahr USA Publishing's YM magazine from 1997 to 1999, and before that, she was associate publisher of Allure. She began her career in the magazine business at TV Guide, where she served as West Coast manager from 1990 to 1995, and was responsible for increasing her territory revenue by $30 million in less than two years, marking the fastest increase in the magazine's history, according to a staff memo written by Mary Berner, Fairchild president-CEO, announcing Ms. Alston's W appointment.

"Alyce's reputation for creating successful sales and marketing teams to build magazines is well deserved as is clear by her stellar track record. I've no doubt that she will be a great leader for the terrific team we have at W," says Ms. Berner.

A native of Mississippi, Ms. Alston has an undergraduate degree from Southern Methodist University and an MBA from Pepperdine University. Her appetite for publishing whetted by a stint with Time Inc. as a research intern, Ms. Alston made her way to New York to try to break into the industry.

One of her first interviews was with Ms. Berner, who suggested Ms. Alston "go get some experience" and contact her again after that. "I reminded Mary of that conversation when we were negotiating this latest round of compensation," Ms. Alston says. "I'm not so sure she wanted me to remind her that I have all this management experience now."

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