Fairchild Publications eyes upscale parenting magazine

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Fairchild Publications is in the early stages of developing an upscale parenting magazine, said executives familiar with the matter.

Insiders said the working title for the project is Cookie. They describe it as an outgrowth of a Magazine Development Day that the company held earlier this year, in which employees were invited to pitch potential ideas for new magazines.

"There's always stuff incubating," said Fairchild's President-CEO Mary Berner. She declined to detail any specifics on potential launches, saying it was "way too early." Currently, Fairchild is slated to launch one magazine next year-a female version of its shopping title Vitals, the men's title that launched this fall-and Ms. Berner said that, of the other ideas in play internally, she hoped to launch one as a magazine in 2005.

Insiders testify, though, that the Cookie project has gained the most traction, having been discussed at a number of meetings, and it's believed Fairchild will ready a direct-mail drop to gauge potential consumer interest.

The leading consumer parenting titles-Gruner & Jahr USA Publishing's Parents and Child; Meredith Corp.'s American Baby; and Time Inc.'s Parenting-all have circulations in excess of 1 million, and American Baby's, Parents' and Parenting's total circulation top 2 million. Under Ms. Berner, Fairchild has aggressively positioned itself as a purveyor of smaller-circulation magazines targeting high-end audiences. Circulation of its fashion/style title W is less than half of that at Conde Nast Publications sibling title Vogue, for instance.

Accordingly, Cookie "would be for people who don't want to read stories about diaper rash, but want to know about the top-of-the-line crib," said one insider. Recent Fairchild launches, like W Jewelry and Vitals are packed with product pictures and lux layouts.

'offspring' similarity

G&J's Child repositioned itself as a more upscale companion to mother ship Parents in 2001, but the most recent attempt at a magazine closely resembling the Cookie project came to an end when Hearst Magazines and Dow Jones & Co. shuttered the joint-venture title Offspring in January 2001. That magazine, conceived as an offshoot of the then-highflying personal-finance title Smart Money, received kudos from advertisers and from the press: In a roundup of magazine launches published by Advertising Age in July 2000, Offspring netted three stars, a showing bested only by the likes of O, The Oprah Magazine. At the time of its closing, it had netted only about 50,000 subscriptions in its existence. But, given Hearst's more mass market-oriented business model, what Fairchild and Hearst require in terms of circulation volume in order to make magazines successful are substantially different.

contributing: greg lindsay

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