NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Part of Conde Nast Publications' plan for Conde Nast Portfolio -- which is finally just over four weeks from arrival -- is to capture those female executives who don't feel served by BusinessWeek, Fortune and Forbes. But the old guard won't be standing by watching: Forbes, for one, is preparing a lifestyle spinoff called Forbes Life Executive Woman, which will deliver its first issue this October and four more in 2008.
Forbes Makes Room for Lifestyle Editorial, Even Fashion
It's the company's first new magazine since Malcolm Forbes dreamed up Egg, which launched in February 1990 and folded a year later, but don't ask Forbes whether Portfolio influenced its plans.
'Portfolio doesn't exist'
"Portfolio doesn't exist," said Jack Laschever, VP-publisher, Forbes Life. "We have a brand that is celebrating its 90th anniversary. If anybody's got catching up to do, it's them."
Jim Berrien, president of the Forbes Magazine Group, chimed in: "It's got everything to do with us wanting to grow our business and extend our brand and nothing to do with anyone out there who wants to compete with us."
OK, noted. And it's true that the ranks of executive women are growing. The other business books are certainly trying to capitalize on that, if not in the same way that Forbes plans. Time Inc.'s Fortune, for example, will host its Most Powerful Women Summit this year for three days in October, just before its annual in-book feature "The 50 Most Powerful Women in Business."
Forbes also has a renewed interest in expanding. The company hunkered down through a lot of the early decade, but since selling a minority stake to Elevation Partners last August, it has resumed hunting growth.
Little change in female readership
But the flagship Forbes title, like its biggest competitors,
hasn't seen much change in the proportion of women among its
audience. Women represented 32.6% of the Forbes readership in the
fall 1980 Mediamark Research study; by fall 2006, Mediamark put
that figure at 29.9%.
Beth Fidoten, senior VP-director of print services, Initiative, said the plan makes sense, especially because the editorial in Forbes Life skews, like its audience, so heavily male. "It's shown to be successful for Forbes FYI, now known as Forbes Life, so why shouldn't be it successful for women?"
But another media buyer sounded some skepticism, partly because an abundance of women's lifestyle magazines already vacuum up budgets from Gucci, Chanel, Christian Dior and Bottega Veneta. There's also the tricky matter of selling women on fashion advice from a business brand."The question becomes what credibility or authority does a business magazine carry relative to fashion, beauty, et cetera?" the buyer asked.
Forbes Life Executive Woman will be delivered to about 125,000 female Forbes subscribers with their regular copies of Forbes, so the launch will at least reach the target's hands. "It's the ultimate Trojan Horse, if you will," Mr. Laschever said. "Forbes is essential reading for these women executives. With Forbes Life Executive Woman coming polybagged, it's going to be read."
Opening up new dialogues
Although the title will leave the core business and investment
advice to the mothership, its lifestyle coverage will be of a piece
with the business world, said Catherine Sabino, the veteran of
Italian fashion titles who has been tapped to be editor in chief.
"We've realized that the work and business lives are not so
precisely divided," she said. "We will open up this whole dialogue
about how women dress. Or how do you entertain when you have a
70-hour work week, even if you have all of the economic resources
you'll ever need?"
Mr. Berrien said Forbes has plenty more planned. "This is just one element of our longer and broader lifestyle strategy," he said. "There's no reason in the world that we don't have the credibility, whether it's hotels or restaurants or planes or boats or watches or whatever, to leverage our expertise to other areas that are germane to our readers."