With Ms. Brown on her way to Miramax and Pulitzer Prize-winner David Remnick taking over as The New Yorker's fifth editor, the challenge for the weekly's business team-led by newly named Publisher David Carey-is to get back to selling the attributes of the magazine.
That means building a buzz centered not on the comings and goings of a celebrity editor but on the magazine's relationship with its readers. Media buyers shouldn't care who edits The New Yorker, nor is it their concern whether it makes money (as long as Si Newhouse continues to give it the financial support it needs). As McCann-Erickson Worldwide's magazine guru Roberta Garfinkle told The New York Times last week, "If the readers stay, the advertisers will, too." That's all that matters. A quality editorial product will draw loyal readers, and they attract advertisers. The formula really is quite simple.
Mr. Carey before long will make the rounds of agencies and advertisers to present The New Yorker's business-side strategy now that it's coming under the Conde Nast umbrella, including its circulation goals and its plans for softening the blow for advertisers that no longer will be able to negotiate ad rates. During that time period, Mr. Remnick's impact on the editorial product will no doubt also begin to be felt.
Tina Brown deserves high praise for taking a magazine arguably approaching the end of its life span and restoring its relevancy. But, for better or worse, the magazine in recent months attracted attention for all the wrong reasons. With a new team in place, Conde Nast can move the sales conversation away from soap opera-ish personality clashes and back to the core strengths of The New Yorker.M
Rx ad mistake
In its latest advertising decision, the Food & Drug Administration has taken a step backward-toward the last century.
A hundred years ago, patent medicines were hawked by "Dr. Poland" and "Dr. Case" and "Dr. Ayer" and "Dr. Jayne," to name a few actual ones. That and other abuses in the end resulted in the first Federal Food & Drug Act.
Today's FDA hasn't allowed medical doctors to once again promote Rx drugs in direct-to-consumer ads, but it ventured a little further than it should have when it approved the first use of a celebrity spokesperson in a TV campaign for a prescription drug.
In Joan Lunden, the former ABC morning-show host, top DTC advertiser Schering-Plough selected a celebrity who lends the impartial imprimatur of a journalist to its Rx allergy remedy Claritin. Although she is no longer associated with ABC, Schering clearly is leveraging the public trust and equity Ms. Lunden built as a TV journalist to promote its medicine. That takes the advertising into a new arena, because consumer trust in Ms. Lunden from her previous role may exceed the degree of knowledge she, in fact, holds.
Those in the media occupy a special place, and have a special responsibility even when they leave (and Ms. Lunden is not far enough removed from ABC-less than a year-that all consumers will make a distinction). Also, Schering and its agency haven't tried to provide any extra distance either; the commercial opens with her in a TV-show setting. While that's not snake-oil flim-flam, adding TV news personalities to Rx ads is a line that's better left uncrossed.