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Vanessa Voltolina

Publishers Pony Up for Plush Manhattan Show Houses

Vanessa Voltolina Audience Development - 09/01/2009-11:53 AM

Ailing economy? Down housing market? One might not recall such conditions looking at how some magazine publishers are locking up plush Manhattan residences for events and brand extension initiatives.

Again this fall, Hearst is planning its annual Esquire “Ultimate Bachelor Pad” in Soho, featuring a 9,200-square-foot, glass-walled penthouse at Soho Mews, with an opening gala set for September 21 to celebrate the New York Film Festival.

The price tag for the penthouse? According to nyc BLOG estate site, Soho Mews' rentals range from $7,000 to $20,000 per month. Two years ago, Esquire’s Ultimate Bachelor Pad—Esquire North, located in Harlem—cost $8.5 million.
For the first time ever, The Mews will also host Hearst’s fourth year of “Designer Visions” program, opening on October 13, where each designer decorates a townhouse in “Cinema Style.” Each of Hearst’s three shelter titles has paired with a designer who will choose a movie to be representative of the show home’s décor: House Beautiful’s designer Thom Filicia chose The Big Chill; Town&Country’s Richard Mishaan selected Dinner at Eight; and John Saladino for Veranda went with Girl with a Pearl Earring. Once unveiled, buyers will have the opportunity to purchase these living spaces.
Hachette’s Metropolitan Home will also keep its “Showtime House” alive for a second year (after winning FOLIO:’s 2008 silver FAME Award for Best First-Time Event) with twin penthouses in the Tribeca Summit building. Designers will transform the 14,000-square-foot indoor and outdoor space into rooms based on Showtime series, like Californication, Dexter, Nurse Jackie, The Tudors and Weeds [pictured], and open to the public from September 12 to mid-October.
Regardless of the price, the fact that publishers are still signing on for show houses—particularly when the shelter category has been hit the hardest—is one of the few industry bright spots. Fall parties at the Mews, anyone?


Vanessa Voltolina

California Magazine Offers Promotion for Free Marijuana

Vanessa Voltolina City and Regionals - 08/24/2009-11:15 AM

Kush L.A., a free monthly Southern California title that bills itself as the “Premiere Medical Marijuana Lifestyle Magazine,” may have launched one of the most controversial—and, for some, most sought-after—magazine promotion to date.

The magazine has partnered with medial marijuana organization The Rainforest Collective to offer a coupon for free medical marijuana. Kush L.A.’s August issue will tout a coupon for the first 100 “new patients” of The Rainforest Collective to receive a free 1/8-ounce of medical marijuana. And, for those who miss out on being one of the first 100 people on the September 1 giveaway, the next 100 coupon holders will get with a free gram; subsequent new patients will be eligible to spin a "420" prize wheel to win marijuana cigarettes and edibles.

Certainly, the entire promotion is controversial. But it doesn’t seem to bother Kush L.A. and publisher Michael Lerner. “At Kush L.A., we are excited to be promoting this new patient giveaway with The Rainforest Collective,” he said in a release. “We have done similar promotions with our other great magazine and Web site advertising partners and look forward to our continued involvement in this movement.”

Vanessa Voltolina

Could Webisodes Replace Mag Reality TV?

Vanessa Voltolina Consumer - 08/20/2009-10:12 AM

Over the past year or so, a number of consumer titles have piggybacked on the popularity of reality television, and show no signs of letting up (Condé Nast is the latest to announce the debut of “Gourmet's Adventures With Ruth” this October).

Some, like Marie Claire, have seen viewership for its TV initiative soar out of the gate; its eight-episode docu-series, “Running in Heels,” reported 5.1 million total viewers across all telecasts on Comcast’s Style Network. (Hearst already has plans for future MC-branded TV partnerships, confirmed a rep). Bravo’s Top Chef saw a 20 percent increase in viewers this past season (3.63 million in total), with Food&Wine’s Gail Simmons acting as a show judge and a critic. Popular fashion reality show, Project Runway, initially saw a similar success through a Bravo-Elle partnership, with its fifth season averaging 3.6 million viewers.

But oh, how the mighty fall. Since Elle fashion director (and one of the show’s judges) Nina Garcia left the title for Marie Claire, this partnership has disintegrated, leaving Elle to regain its TV presence through the launch of Stylista on The CW this past spring. The show reported only mediocre success—1.7 million viewers for its eight episode run, with the show’s future left hanging in the balance.

Time Inc.’s Real Simple. Real Life. also experienced underwhelming results in the 300,000-viewer range, while Nielsen’s American Idol-style show, Billboard Next, was announced, but never even made it on the air (a rep was not immediately available to confirm future plans for the show).

But as a low-budget alternative to a sitcom, producing a reality TV show isn’t a bad move for publishers. It can save around 35 percent over sitcoms (no scripting and fewer high-profile celebs) and is a logical next step in the brand extension process. The downside? Publishers have to be confident enough in their dramas to drop at least $950,000 per episode—a chunk of change that’s hard to stomach for even the largest titles.

Webisodes: Magazine TV Testing Phase?

While online video has traditionally been reserved for how-to content, it may also serve as a test phase for publishers who don’t want to pony up prematurely.

In the past, Vogue’s received flack for shunning reality TV in favor of its own Model.Live, a 12-week, 14-episode reality show online at Vogue TV. Despite being online-only, the series saw over 1 million views only three weeks after airing last summer. Of course, in the style of Vogue, an initiative which could have been a money saver was taken to an extreme, hitting the $3 million mark to produce. Another series of webinars to debut this September is Meredith’s More “The Broadroom,” written by Sex and the City author Candace Bushnell.

According to a recent comScore report, online ads are proving just as effective as TV ads (over a 12-week span, online campaigns involving consumer packaged goods with a 40 percent reach were responsible for lifting retail sales 9 percent; the average lift of TV was 8 percent). As the argument for advertisers online becomes stronger, are there incentives for publishers in the TV trial phase to test their luck with webisodes?

“We wanted to explore the new online frontier,” Julie Fuoti, vice president of marketing for Meredith 360 told me. “Especially since reality television is a huge investment.”  The Broadroom will rely on Meredith’s recently launched Gamma network to reach out to its 10 million-plus target female audience, said Meredith. And despite being uncertain of what to expect, Nancy Weber, Meredith Publishing Group’s CMO, thinks “it’s an exciting new format and very flexible, particularly for publishers trying new programming.”

While not a reality show per se, The Broadroom’s fourth webisode will be a looser form, reality-based sneak peek; More also has “something on pilot now that will be webisode-based and will have a reality bend,” said Fuoti. “Really, the concept was just right for the brand, and is what Candace [Bushnell] does best. However, this doesn’t preclude reality TV for us.”

While it remains to be seen whether The Broadroom will ever make it past the Webisode stage, at a time when few publishers lack the extra to invest on a TV experiment, will more and more publishers turn to the Web to test for TV?

Vanessa Voltolina

One Publisher Defends Cover Model Retouching

Vanessa Voltolina Consumer - 08/10/2009-15:27 PM

On the heels of Kim Kardashian’s unretouched photos being released on Complex's Web site only a few months ago, and New York and Rolling Stone's blatantly airbrushed images of the Obamas during election season, magazines—women’s titles, particularly—have taken an endless beating for having a heavy hand when it comes to airbrushing and Photoshopping their cover subjects.

After receiving a great deal of flack for an airbrushed and color corrected (but not Photoshopped) September issue cover featuring Kelly Clarkson—and admitting late last week to the alterations—Self editor-in-chief Lucy Danziger used her blog to issue a response to the airbrushing "controversy," which has ended up as a kind of defense for magazine cover retouching.

In addition to confirming her “yes, we airbrush” statement, Danzinger wrote that Self’s portraits are not meant to be unedited or true-to-life snapshots. She even admits to asking her art department to shave a little off of her hips on a photo of her running the marathon for an editor’s letter a few years back. “I am confident in my body, proud of what it can accomplish, but it just didn't look the way I wanted in every picture,” she wrote.

Of the hundred or so images snapped at a Self shoot, she stressed, there are outfit changes and lighting adjustments, and hair touch-ups and fans blowing, making a perfect picture hard to come by. “This is art, creativity and collaboration. It's not, as in a news photograph, journalism. It is, however, meant to inspire women to want to be their best. That is the point,” she wrote.

Do you think Danzinger makes the case for retouching?

Vanessa Voltolina

Editors’ New Role As ‘Talk Show Hosts’

Vanessa Voltolina Editorial - 07/29/2009-08:44 AM

In his recent Boston Globe op-ed, DBMediaStrategies president Doug Bailey presented his manifesto on reader comment sections.

His conclusion: reader comments devalue journalism, blur the truth and confuse the issues. He suggests publishers rid their sites of user forums as a first step toward restoring journalism’s dignity. Ironically (or maybe not so?) the op-ed saw 190—mostly out of spite, and presumably unedited—reader comments.

Our own mediaPRO social network elicited feedback from FOLIO: readers on the topic. Beginning the thread was Rachael Globus, editor-in-chief at Event Publishing LLC, who wrote: “Is this guy [Bailey] for real? … When are publishers going to get it that user-generated content is content? Yes, it's still a reporter's job to sift through complex issues to present a coherent narrative and there will always be demand for that. But why in the world would it be beneath a newspaper to host the lively debates its content sparks?”

Doing away with reader comments completely may seem extreme. But Bailey’s op-ed brings to light something that publishers are still struggling with: how much unattended—or unedited—content is worthwhile content?

"An unattended comment thread will be full of garbage and many are,” blogged Fred Wilson, a venture capitalist and principal of Union Square Ventures. And this sometimes useless user discussion, University of Mississippi professor Samir “Mr. Magazine” Husni told FOLIO:, is a result of editors treating threads as “an easy excuse to have less editing and fact checking” and “to assume that your readers’ comments and letters are true and factual. Editors will never publish some of the stuff in print that they publish on their Web sites, and thus they have no one to blame but themselves.”

Reporters Take on a New Role

I’d be lying if I said that didn’t have its share of inappropriate, raging and nonsensical “comments”—which we screen before they are published to the Web. But we also get some very focused analysis from insiders, which can help to advance the story we’re reporting on.

But as comment sections continue to gain traction, is it the job of editors and reporters to moderate and lead discussions?

“Reporters aren't trained to be talk show hosts, but that's what a forum is all about,” said custom publisher Hammock Inc. CEO Rex Hammock. He, like Husni, believes that if editors are not going to moderate comments, then there is no reason to include them as part of a Web presence.

The upside to comment maintenance? “Journalists that do it [moderate, edit and offer feedback] and do it well will be better read,” wrote Wilson. “And they'll be better informed. They'll get tips in the comment threads, constructive criticism that will help them do their job better, and leads on new stories before others will."

While this may be a bit of optimism about what can be culled from reader comments, at the very least, publishers need to establish that: “Being invited into a discussion is like being invited into someone’s home,” said Hammock. “Add to the conversation and you'll be rewarded. Be an ass, and you'll get kicked out.”

Vanessa Voltolina

Survey: Self Boasts Most-Read Article Among Q2 Features

Vanessa Voltolina Consumer - 07/14/2009-14:08 PM

Recent research from Affinity’s VISTA Print Rating Service for the second quarter reports Self's June "20 Ways to Eat Healthier Right Now" story as the most-read article, with 90 percent of the surveyed readers recalling the article (Total Readership), and 85 percent reading more than half of the feature story (Extent of Readership).

The average readership score of all articles measured to be 61 percent, said Affinity, which bases its data on readers surveyed on over 100 consumer magazine titles and more than 1,000 articles from April through June.

While these ratings may not guarantee newsstand longevity—or successful growth in advertising—those features that made it onto this top ten list, like U.S. News & World Report, Parade, AARP and Architectural Digest, may offer publishers some insight into what editorial is resonating with readers.

Here, the top 10 most-read articles of Q2:

#1: “20 Ways to Eat Healthier Right Now”
June 2009
Total Readership: 90%
Extent of Readership: 85%

#2: “The Green Energy Economy”
U.S. News & World Report
April 2009
Total Readership: 89%
Extent of Readership: 75%

#3: “Hot Nights Out!”
People StyleWatch
June/July 2009
Total Readership: 89%
Extent of Readership: 73%

#4: “How Our Salaries Are Changing”
April 12, 2009
Total Readership: 89%
Extent of Readership: 53%

#5: “I Am So Alone”
Us Weekly
April 20, 2009
Total Readership: 88%
Extent of Readership: 73%

#6: “The Soul of Beyonce”
April 2009
Total Readership: 86%
Extent of Readership: 84%

#7: “The Truth About How We Eat”
Woman’s Day
April 14, 2009
Total Readership: 86%
Extent of Readership: 81%

#8: “How Dolly Does It”
May/June 2009
Total Readership: 86%
Extent of Readership: 70%

#9: “Fashion Stakeout”
June 2009
Total Readership: 85%
Extent of Readership: 75%

#10: “At One with the Land”
Architectural Digest
April 2009
Total Readership: 85%
Extent of Readership: 64%

Source: Affinity's VISTA Print Effectiveness Rating Service; Top articles by readership (April through June 2009). Ties in rankings broken by extent of readership scores.

Vanessa Voltolina

279 Magazines Shuttered in the First Half

Vanessa Voltolina Audience Development - 07/02/2009-15:39 PM

The first half numbers are in, and according to─an online database of U.S. and Canadian magazines—187 new titles have launched thus far in '09. But unfortunately, the frequency of these launches wasn't enough to counteract the number of titles shuttered.

Of the 279 that folded, main category culprits include regional interest magazines, which took a dive and saw 27 titles fold, like Denver Living and Florida InsideOut. However, regional interest publications were also the top category for new launches at 12. Other categories on the decline include construction, lifestyle and business with 18, 14 and 10 folded titles, respectively.

Since the end of March, 77 magazines have launched and 184 have folded, compared with 110 launches and 95 closings in the first quarter of 2009.

A bright spot, if there is one, is that after the print editions folded, 43 titles continued to live on the Web.

Vanessa Voltolina

Targeting the 'Gamma' Woman

Vanessa Voltolina Consumer - 07/02/2009-08:16 AM

Earlier this week, Meredith launched another 360° product designed to provide marketers and advertisers with multimedia to leverage a "Gamma" female audience.

This "product"—essentially a platform of assets pulled together as an integrated buy for advertisers—spawned from a report that the company produced last year revealing the rise of what they dubbed "Gamma Women"—influential and well-connected women who share info. “The reason behind creating this was that as we were out presenting the report, I repeatedly got questions from marketers and advertisers about leveraging gammas. They wanted a database of Gammas,” said Nancy Weber, Meredith Publishing Group's chief marketing officer.
What was noticeably missing, however, among the company's assets available to marketers—which include and, Meredith’s New Media Strategies, partnerships with experiential marketer House Party, and targeted product samplings through SheSpeaks, as well as nationally-syndicated Better TV—was a print component.

This was even more glaring since the company had four of the top five magazines showing ad growth in July, with Fitness topping the bunch. With a Gamma-targeted base package starting at around $200,000, I'd expect print to be in the mix.

When asked about this discrepancy, Weber said: “We were launching Mixing Bowl while we were putting this [product] together. Going forward, it will likely be a key component.”

Mixing Bowl is the new print component of Meredith's food-focused community Web site of the same name. The magazine launched last week and will carry an initial circulation of 260,000. And likely, Meredith won't stop at Mixing Bowl. Said Weber: “Every day there are more components.”

Vanessa Voltolina

Jacko Cover Blitz

Vanessa Voltolina Consumer - 06/29/2009-11:19 AM

In the magazine world, unfortunate celebrity deaths usually mean a newsstand score for publishers (re: Paul Newman). And with the sudden death of Michael Jackson last Thursday, music, entertainment, and newsweekly magazines have been scurrying to publish tribute issues.

While some, like Vibe, have released statements on the King of Pop and his global impact (“Jackson was an absurdly talented, amazingly hardworking, troubled man. Which is to say he was built, literally, to be the biggest pop star this world has ever known,” said a statement from Vibe Media Group COO and editor-in-chief of Vibe and The Most!, Danyel Smith), others, like Time and Newsweek, have managed to get their publications out of the gate for today.

Time’s commemorative Jackson issue is retailing for $5.99 and is published in addition to its weekly issue. The last time the magazine published a special edition in between weekly issues was in the days following 9/11, said a company release; this issue sold more than 3.25 million copies in the U.S.

Newsweek published its July 13, 2009 issue early, available on newsstands now, featuring a cover image of Jackson as a child.

Of course, not all commemorative issues are created equal. Periodical distribution tracker and editor of industry newsletter The New Single Copy, John Harrington, wrote in his June 29 newsletter that it’s “unlikely that single copy sales records” for Jackson’s People commemorative issue will come close to the likes of Barack Obama’s election edition (sold 575,000 newsstand copies, nearly five times a typical issue) and the death of Princess Diana (sold over 1.1 million copies domestically).

However, while individual titles may see Jackson ranking below expectation, the bright spot for publishers is a “major increase in newsstand sales” setting records with total sales for the category, including People, Us Weekly, In Touch, Star, Life & Style and OK!, said Harrington.

Due to a quick turnaround time and compelling cover images, Time and Newsweek could see big returns on their Jackson covers. It remains to be seen how upcoming Bauer publications Life & Style Weekly and In Touch, Entertainment Weekly, The National Inquirer, People, Rolling Stone and OK!—and the plethora of other magazines that publish Jackson commemorative issues—will fair.

Click here to see FOLIO:'s roundup of tribute issues from around the world.

Vanessa Voltolina

Magazines Flaunting Recession-Friendly ‘Under $100’ Coverlines

Vanessa Voltolina Consumer - 06/15/2009-14:26 PM

Over the past few months, women’s interest magazines have found a growing market in recessionistas. And this summer, it’s all about keeping the female masses reading (and spending), with publishing giants Time Inc., Hearst and Condé Nast all publishing magazines with “under $100” solutions.

As Lucky editor-in-chief Kim France wrote in the issue’s editor’s letter, “Obviously we did it because the times call for it, but it also simply seemed like a really fun (if slightly overwhelming) proposition.”

Here are a few:

Title: InStyle
Issue: June
Coverline: “Best Summer Steals! 75 Fashion Finds Under $100”

Translation: Scattering under $100 finds throughout pages 81 to 204 of this issue doesn’t provide instant gratification I was hoping for. While certainly some good, inexpensive options, it’s tough to be discerning when sale bin items are placed alongside thousand-dollar gems.

Title: Marie Claire
Issue: July
Coverline: “Dress Like a Million for Under $100”

Translation: “Dress Like a Million for Under a Million.” Cameron Diaz’s Elsa Peretti for Tiffany & Co. necklace retails for $3,450; the under $100 picks include one page of wild, wild west styles that leave something to be desired.

Issue: July
Coverline: “Everything in this issue is under $100!”

Translation: Condé Nast’s shopping and style title may be the most creative of the bunch, morphing its annual “under $100” issue to include everything in the issue. And just so readers know Lucky is serious about its pledge, even cover model Becki Newton is donned in pieces under $100.

Of course, Newton would look great in a paper bag—a recessionary visual these publishers hope doesn’t become a reality.

Vanessa Voltolina

Time Cover: Thinly-Veiled Twitter Ad?

Vanessa Voltolina Consumer - 06/08/2009-13:35 PM

We’ve been covering the debate over ads on magazine covers (“The Great Cover Ad Debate”) at FOLIO: a lot lately. So far, we’ve limited the debate to magazines—fairly openly and brazenly—putting ads on their covers.

But what about magazines whose covers—while editorial by nature—look like an ad?

Take Time’s June 15 issue. The cover touts a somewhat generic mobile phone (it looks like an iPhone) with a Twitter update by the issue’s cover story author, Steven Johnson, reading: “I’ve written this week’s TIME cover story about how Twitter is changing the way we live—and showing us the future of innovation. Buy a copy!”

Is this low-cost design an effective way to promote the issue’s cover story on Twitter? An odd effort to make their cover look like a Twitter ad? Or something else?

Leave your comments below.

Vanessa Voltolina

Why Everyone Should Look at the Cover Before it Goes to Print

Vanessa Voltolina Design and Production - 06/03/2009-09:38 AM

Sloppy use of Photoshop continues to wreak havoc on magazine covers.

Take Marie Claire’s June 2009 cover. As the Quality in Print blog pointed out, cover girl Beyonce Knowles was handed a Photoshop-induced finger deformity.

A typical Photoshop flub? In my opinion, no—it was a combination of lighting and reflective chunky jewelry gone awry. But regardless, it’s an odd distraction that someone should have picked up on.

But Beyonce’s mutant hand is child’s play compared to some of the more recent, blatant mistakes, like OK!’s April 20th issue, which showed before and after photos of a “Biggest Loser” reality TV star. The kicker (sorry): the cover’s “after” photo was missing a leg.

Of course, these mistakes aren’t limited to magazine covers, as seen on, “the best photoshop mistakes and disasters from around the world.” But inconsistencies—the displaced shadows on Time’s November 3, 2008 cover, for instance—are a common occurrence.

So what do all of these snafus add up to? It’s the best reason I can think of to make all staffers, bloggers, interns—or even a random guy off of the street—give an issue’s cover the once-over before shipping.