Rosie a risk for McCall's

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Martha stewart living makes sense. (It's the bible of her religion.) O makes sense. (It reflects Oprah's optimism and values.) But Rosie's McCall's comes across as a me-too scheme from the also-ran of the Seven Sisters. What's the big idea?

A magazine doesn't get to live forever just because it's been around forever. The Seven Sisters-as a group and as individual titles-must constantly prove themselves. In a publishing world where advertisers prefer targeted niche titles to fuzzy mass magazines, it's possible to envision the day when the sorority of seven will shrink.

Ad pages have been flat or fallen at five of the seven magazines this year, even as the overall ad market booms. We'll see how they do in a bad year. McCall's, the slimmest in ad pages of the Seven Sisters, has seen its pages fall nearly 11% through October.

McCall's needs to do something. But a relaunch with Rosie O'Donnell doesn't look like the right something. This is an example of borrowed equity where the connection between celebrity and product isn't clear.

McCall's has aligned itself with a loudmouth. That could help an aging magazine make noise to create buzz. But there are risks. One risk is the unknown of how long Ms. O'Donnell will remain as a potent celebrity brand. It's unclear how long she'll stay with her TV show. Does Ms. O'Donnell really have the staying power of a megabrand like Oprah?

Another risk: If the opinionated Ms. O'Donnell continues to inject herself into controversies of the day, how will McCall's advertisers react? Ms. O'Donnell vows to put "lots of my annoying Democratic politics" into McCall's. Do advertisers (or readers) want to hear about Rosie's politics?

The biggest risk may be the fuzzy logic of this venture. What's the connection between aging McCall's and raging Rosie? For this new deal, the outlook isn't necessarily rosy.

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