Disney and Hearst extend Lifetime brand to newsstand

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This year's biggest magazine launch to date, Hearst Magazines and Walt Disney Co.'s Lifetime, ships 500,000 copies to newsstands and mailboxes this week.

With Faith Hill on the cover and 104 ad pages bulking up its portfolio, it hits the market with a recognizable name and a commercial bang. Executives associated with the project describe a lighter play for the 30-something reader-via a girlfriend-ish take on service, fashion and uplift-that echoes recent hits like Time Inc.'s Real Simple and Hearst's co-venture O, The Oprah Magazine. Sharing the title of a cable channel synonymous with women-a channel that reaches almost 86 million homes-doesn't hurt either. Neither does the main tie-in with the channel-putting the celebrity that Lifetime will feature in its "Intimate Portrait" interview series on the cover.

Still, to succeed long term, it needs to navigate the tricky straits of translating a TV brand into print, and one that lacks a persona, like Oprah or Martha Stewart, around which to drape an identity. But Walt Disney Co. and Hearst's other print partnership, ESPN The Magazine, managed. "For us, the biggest thing was to capture the spirit of what ESPN was communicating as a network," said Gary Hoenig, the executive editor of ESPN The Magazine, who oversaw its development.

But not every magazine launched off TV brands has fared so smashingly. Hearst shuttered in 2000 a short-lived magazine based around mass-market friendly TV cook Mr. Food And Gruner & Jahr USA Publishing officials still cringe when reminded of their ill-fated venture with Rosie O'Donnell.

staying on brand

"There's always going to be some natural skepticism, a wait-and-see thing, a `let's see how you translate that brand"' said Lifetime VP-Publisher Susan Plagemann. But what Editor in Chief Sally Koslow has done, she said, "is stayed on brand with what Lifetime is."

The cover's emblazoned with the channel's "Real Life, Real Women" credo. The debut's content ranges from the salacious-"I've Been Having an Affair for Years"-to the sly, like a piece about "why it's so frigging hard to find a bra that fits," as Ms. Koslow put it. "There is a lightness and a good sense of humor about the magazine," said Hearst Magazines President Cathleen Black, who noted the inevitability of magazines being works-in-progress. "Will it get better? Of course."

The title will launch with two issues (May/June and July/August) and will go to a monthly schedule in September. A one-time, full-color ad page costs $30,000. A new sales division at the network, called Lifetime Partnerships, was formed to facilitate cross-platform ad sales, though Lifetime (the network) Exec VP-Sales Lynn Picard said none were yet in place: "Those take a little longer to execute."

One major media buyer warned, though, the big bang of the launch aside, Lifetime competes for shrinking dollars in a broadly contested space. "It's not like our budgets are going up," the buyer noted. "Is a new magazine going to be the first place I put my money?"

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