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In the world of magazine launches, hype is everything. Hands-down, last year's most talked-about, written-about, wondered-about start-up was monthly "Brill's Content," the first consumer magazine devoted to scrutinizing the press.

Even before "Brill's Content" made its debut in June, Founder Steven Brill -- the brash entrepreneur behind "American Lawyer" magazine and Court TV cable network -- was hitting the talk-show circuit and sitting down with "Vanity Fair."

Mr. Brill made a splash with the first issue. A 30-page cover story called "Pressgate" accused Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr and his minions of leaking material to journalists. The report made headlines everywhere.

Meanwhile, the industry still asks: Can the monthly survive the hype to hook readers and advertisers long-term?

"The advertising support is there under the belief that there's great consumer potential -- but I have yet to see evidence that the magazine has appeal beyond the media world," says Lee Doyle, group media director of the agency Ammirati Puris Lintas, New York.

"Brill's" sold 200,000 subscriptions following an aggressive direct-mail blitz last year. With the February issue, "Brill's" raised its rate base to 225,000 from an initial 150,000. Publisher Deanna Brown hopes for another rate-base hike early next year.

Still, "Brill's" is not selling anywhere near the half-million copies some industry analysts say it needs. Early predictions had circulation topping out at 250,000, but Mr. Brill bets circulation will reach 300,000 by the end of this year. He expects to be profitable when it exceeds 350,000.

"Brill's" ad pages are up slightly and its five issues last year carried more than 200 ad pages.

Meanwhile, its editorial has been relentlessly, sometimes savagely, critiqued. Critics have used terms like "dull" and "self-important" to describe its content.

Nine months after its birth, "Brill's" continues to evolve and now includes shorter stories and more photography.

"We've been on a constant tear to improve the magazine, and we'll keep working on it, to make it better. Anybody who doesn't do that is going to lose," says

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