'SmartMoney' parenting title to fold

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The magazine industry expected a shakeout in 2001, and its first victim fell just three days into it. On Jan. 3, SmartMoney--the financial titled jointly owned by Dow Jones and Hearst Magazines--shuttered its parenting title Offspring after just four issues.

SmartMoney CEO Chris Lambiase said that ad response to the title "blew out the budget" each issue. Ad pages peaked at 84 with its back-to-school issue. But to date Offspring had netted only 50,000 subscriptions. "In this economy, and with Hearst's focus on larger-circulation magazines," said Mr. Lambiase, "the decision was made to fold it back into SmartMoney," where the magazine got its start.

Offspring, which boasted the tagline "No More Baby Talk," had billed itself as a different kind of parenting magazine. But, as Mr. Lambiase reported, it failed to significantl;y catch on with readers nor draw a different readership than other parenting titles--as with most parenting magazines, its readership skewed 80 percent female.

Mr. Lambiase compared Offspring to a CD that is a challenging listen at first, but with repeated listens becomes a favorite. "I think that years ago, perhaps, we could have had a little patience and gotten to the point where the reader learned to love that album," but today's climate was evidently inhospitable for such listening, or reading.

The title's December-January issue, currently on newsstands, will be its last. A Hearst spokesman said that "Offspring wasn't growing fast enough to merit more investment" and touted the growth of other SmartMoney units. The May and December issues of SmartMoney will contain Offspring pages as special sections.

Copyright January 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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