Time Inc. studies U.S. 'Uncut' launch

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Time Inc. is investigating bringing Uncut, the British music-and-movies title published by corporate sibling IPC, across the Atlantic.

At least some copies of Uncut's July 2003 issue that made it to the States came with an "Uncut Reader Survey"-and an envelope pre-addressed to a New York state address-which offered recipients $10 to respond to four pages of questions. Some asked how much readers would pay for Uncut, sans a bonus CD (currently included with all issues), as benchmarked against the cover prices of Wenner Media's Rolling Stone or Dennis Publishing's Blender-but not, interestingly, Spin. Another asks how attractive a $14.95 or $19.95 subscription price would be.

Other queries plumb readers' reaction to current and potential articles, as well their music-buying and other media habits. One question about other magazines asks respondents to divulge how often they pick up Blender, Rolling Stone, Spin, Time Inc.'s Entertainment Weekly, Hearst Magazines' Esquire, Conde Nast Publications' GQ-and indie Guitar Player.

Insiders intrigued by a U.S. edition of Uncut, who suggest a U.S. version could be more broadly about pop culture, still caution a greenlight could be far off. In May, Time Inc. Chairman Ann Moore told attendees at the World Magazine Congress she wanted two launches in '04, but development funds in still-straitened times remain decidedly finite.

The veteran music magazines, Spin and Rolling Stone, have hit heavy weather in the past few years and have yet to show signs of an ad turnaround. Still, one media buyer felt the market could handle one more entrant. "A predominately music magazine from Time Inc.-gangbusters," said Steve Greenberger, senior VP-director of print at Zenith Media, New York, who reserved judgment on a U.S. version of Uncut's current formula. "A movie magazine in concert with music? I'd have to see the movie segment of it."

In the pipeline

Other titles are closer toward becoming actual launches, according to Time Inc. executives. One is based on Living etc, a younger-skewing shelter and decor title also published by IPC; another is a dating-and-mating title that some suggest could have significant synergistic potential with corporate sibling AOL's [email protected] online personals. Another project centers around a mass-market women's title with a low cover price. And one title focusing on smaller homes and sporting the word "cottage" in the title could be the closest to launching.

"The trigger is ready to be pulled" on that last project, said one executive, who nonetheless conceded that much depends on how the fourth quarter turns out for the magazine giant.

A Time Inc. spokesman declined to discuss any specifics of potential or developing titles, beyond saying, "we have a number of development projects currently under way." He characterized the Uncut situation as "one of the many activities and discussions ongoing between IPC and Time Inc."

Back to `life'?

The company is also mulling a launch of its iconic, and twice-dead, Life magazine as a Sunday-newspaper supplement. However, insiders concede entering a space in which Advance Publications' Parade and Gannett's USA Weekend already boast marquee names and multimillion circulations-as well as internal adjacencies to substantial newspaper holdings-would prove difficult.

Other development projects mentioned by some Time Inc.-ers-though looking less likely-are another shelter title, Haven, and a U.S. version of IPC's pioneering lad title Loaded.

The ad climate for magazines remains uncertain at best, but the major publishers have become more active in looking for launches. Hearst launched Lifetime this spring and will launch Town & Country Travel this fall, and continues to develop a shopping title helmed by former Mademoiselle Editor Mandi Norwood. Conde Nast announced plans for a male version of its shopping magazine Lucky, currently titled Cargo and expected to stray from Lucky's singular focus on clothing to include more guy-oriented gear like electronics.

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