CN revamps struggling start-up

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Conde Nast Sports for Women introduces a new name in June and will cut its frequency in half starting with the July issue.

But observers are already questioning the fledgling title's long-term prospects--doubts not usually raised about launches at Conde Nast Publications, which historically relies on its deep pockets and privately held status to stick with start-ups.

The recent acquisition of Women's Sports & Fitness by Conde Nast Chairman S.I. Newhouse Jr. was seen as a move to prop up the new title in the wake of a disappointing early performance by the magazine, launched in September.

Mr. Newhouse bought Women's Sports & Fitness in January from owners Tim Borst and John Winsor for $7 million.

Conde Nast's magazine will now take that magazine's name, while dropping "Conde Nast" from its title.


In June, the Conde Nast magazine will add about 140,000 subscribers from the acquired magazine to its circulation. For now, there will be no increase in the magazine's 350,000 rate base or ad rates, said Publisher Suzanne Grimes.

Ad pages for the first four issues, September through December, numbered 212.69, while the first two issues of 1998 carried a combined 77.99 ad pages, according to Publishers Information Bureau figures.

While the addition of subscribers was an expected result of the buy, dropping the Conde Nast name from the title was not. Steven Florio, president-CEO of the publishing group, has made branding the Conde Nast name a priority in recent years, particularly for new titles such as Conde Nast House & Garden.

Another surprise was the decision to switch to an every-other-monthly frequency. Conde Nast primarily publishes monthlies--such as Glamour and Vanity Fair-- and eschews slow starts for new titles, preferring full-blown launches.


"I was very shocked about the dropping of the Conde Nast name," said Melissa Pordy, senior VP-director of print for Zenith Media, New York. "And it's certainly not typical Conde Nast strategy to do a bimonthly magazine. It makes me assume that instead of pulling it because they are not getting the response they thought they would, they'll lessen the frequency, retain the editorial premise, but make it much more appealing to a broader audience."

The magazine, launched in September, is adding a fitness editor, Marlien Rentmeester, formerly of Primedia's Seventeen, while Fashion Editor Aileen Marr will add the title of beauty editor. Both moves reflect the increased emphasis being placed on those subjects.


Editor in Chief Lucy Danziger said more stories also will focus on nutrition and health.

The field for women's sports titles looked brighter a year ago, when several companies were expressing an interest in the field. Time Inc.'s Sports Illustrated was among those jumping in, testing a title last fall called Sports Illustrated Women/Sport. That project has been put on hold.

Outside still is pursuing plans to launch Outside Woman in September, but the first issue is considered a test with no additional issues planned until 1999.

Copyright April 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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