Publishers in launch mode

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[Rancho Mirage, Calif.] Even though executives at the American Magazine Conference spoke mainly about the problems facing the industry, some of the industry's biggest players made it clear that launch activity is likely to pick up next year. Time Inc., Hearst Magazines and Gruner & Jahr USA Publishing all have titles in development.

"We'll launch stuff in 2004," said Norman Pearlstine, Time Inc.'s editor-in-chief. However, he added that he was "not sure" how many titles would launch or when they would, and was mum on most other specifics.

Meanwhile, the shopping title being developed at Hearst and helmed by former Mademoiselle editor Mandi Norwood-described by an individual who's seen a prototype as a "sophisticated" older-skewing take on Conde Nast Publications' Lucky that goes beyond clothes and beauty-continues to be developed, and the company is nearing a yes or no decision on its future before winter. A Hearst executive said a launch was likely in the second half of `04. One early working title was Scoop, but the project is currently untitled.

With the 130-plus titles currently within Time Inc. and British unit IPC, it's not as if Time Inc. lacks for magazines-but it was clear Mr. Pearlstine feels new magazines are a crucial contributor to his company's sustained health. In 2000, Time Inc. launched five titles, but the company's been decidedly quiet since then. Some at Time Inc. point to Southern Progress' small-living-space project-which will feature the word Cottage in its title-as a favorite for first-launch status. One insider said a quiet confirmation of its launch has already circulated within the company, although no details on timing were given.

A mass-circulation wo-men's service magazine project with a Wal-Mart tie-in-which was worked on by staffers inside Time Inc.'s custom publishing unit but is not a custom publishing project-has quickly gained internal momentum. There's also institutional sentiment in favor of a relaunch of Life as a newspaper supplement, although it has yet to be greenlighted. A Time Inc. spokesman would only confirm the existence of several developing projects.

Executives at Gruner & Jahr USA Publishing took the trip out West as an opportunity to hold focus groups on its Gala project, its proposed entry into the weekly celebrity magazine niche already populated by Time Inc.'s People, Wenner Media's Us Weekly, Bauer Publishing's In Touch and American Media's supermarket tabloids. Executives at the U.S.-based company also met with executives from its German parent about the project, while in Rancho Mirage.

`Gala' details

In a panel at the conference, Dan Brewster, G&J's president-CEO, said it currently publishes Gala in France, Germany and "several Eastern European countries." In an interview prior to the panel, he said half of Gala's editorial would be include women's service topics-which would give the title some uniqueness in the niche. Executives familiar with the project warned that Gala's prototype is still being refined-meaning an '04 launch won't be imminent. Direct-mail testing of the project isn't even scheduled yet.

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