The Biz: Wyland steps in to revive 'Lifetime'

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Hearst Corp. and Walt Disney Co. cable channel Lifetime are hitting the reset button on their joint venture magazine Lifetime, almost exactly one year to the date of its launch. A substantially reworked May issue, courtesy of new Editor in Chief Susan Wyland, hits newsstands this week.

There's some irony in Ms. Wyland's appearance to resuscitate a troubled launch. She was the first editor of Time Inc.'s Real Simple. In its pre-blockbuster early days, its appearance was met with remarkably colorful responses from print buyers ("A bad idea from the start," said one), and Ms. Wyland resigned shortly after its 2000 debut.

It's now Ms. Wyland's turn to right a launch in which the original editor-Sally Koslow, in this case-didn't work out, resulting in a magazine facing, well, remarkably colorful responses from print buyers. "Such a retread of the Seven Sisters," said Pam McNeely, senior VP-group media director, Dailey & Associates, West Hollywood, Calif., referring to traditional women's service magazines such as Hearst's Good Housekeeping. "I didn't see the point."

In a previous interview with Ad Age, Hearst Magazines President Cathleen Black said, "I don't think Lifetime was well-executed enough."

"I felt it was a bit of a missed opportunity," said Ms. Wyland about Lifetime, where she arrived in mid-January after stints at Hearst's development unit and editing Hallmark magazine. "We're striving for something a little more People and a little less Jerry Springer." (One former column in Lifetime was "Secrets You'd Only Tell A Stranger," featured tabloid-ish fare with headlines such as, "I've Been Having an Affair for Years.")

readers key

Ms. Wyland clearly has the resume to bring Lifetime a way toward the next-generation women's titles. In addition to launching Real Simple, she spent three-and-a-half years editing Martha Stewart Living. The visual palette of Lifetime clearly shows the influence of her previous stops, with elegance-through-sparseness and lush photography. Its resemblance to Real Simple, though, spares one key resemblance to something Ms. Wyland was criticized for during her tenure: It's loaded with photos of people.

"This isn't an object-oriented magazine," she said. "We need to make [the reader] the celebrity." One tool to achieve that is the recurring "Secret Weapon" quick recipe suggested by readers, and a remarkable focus on non-celebrity subjects. Its May issue will split covers between Cindy Crawford and one with a more Real Simple-esque tableau of a mostly-white bedroom, albeit with a (not-famous) model sitting on the bed.

Such a shot differs noticeably from Lifetime's launch cover, which ran Faith Hill against a bright-pink background. It's also significantly thinner than its debut, which ran 104 ad pages. In its six issues last year, Lifetime ran 362 ad pages, which comes out to just over 50 ad pages per issue (excluding the launch). At launch, the Lifetime network formed a sales division called Lifetime Partnerships to assemble cross-platform ad sales. One such effort with Kraft will appear in the magazine and in on-air "vignettes" in June, but VP-Publisher Susan Plagemann concedes that's the first such deal the two entities have accomplished.

Lifetime's circulation is unaudited, but rate base went to 600,000 from 500,000 effective January and it will publish 10 issues this year. Ms. Plagemann said that the magazine was selling around 200,000 newsstand copies per issue.

One media buyer gave kudos to the remade magazine. "They have definitely upped their game, from an editorial perspective," said Brenda White, media director at Publicis Groupe's Starcom MediaVest, Chicago.

Asked how they thought the magazine's launch went, Lifetime Partnerships VP Elise McVeigh spoke about how the title delivered its rate base. Lynn Picard, exec VP-general manager of Lifetime Television, shrugged, "It's normal to have a honing and tweaking of a new magazine."

As Ms. Wyland knows all too well.

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