3 Magazine Start-Ups Boldly Enter the Fray
Going it alone in magazine publishing is tough.
Unlike giant corporations such as Hearst Magazines and the Conde Nast Publications, an individual or a partnership wanting to launch a magazine first must attract generous investors to help carry the development costs.
Putting together an attractive prototype of the magazine for prospective advertisers can run $100,000 or more, while the printing and in-the-mail costs of subscription solicitations have come to total about $400 per 1,000 pieces. Even then, a start-up publisher is doing extremely well if the mailing hooks a mere 5% of those who receive it.
In a shocking illustration of how deep and long the red ink can run, Fidelity Investments, the majority partner in Worth, reportedly lost $40 million to $47 million on the financial magazine before it became profitable in this sixth year of publication.
Yet despite the obstacles to success, entrepreneurial publishers continue to identify what they see as unserved niches and launch handsome publications in a risky attempt to fill them. Three new examples, all based in New York, are Notorious, NY city life and Nest.
Notorious, which explores romance and sexuality between men and women, was envisioned by editor and publisher David Anthony when he (with GQ and Playboy) and his girlfriend (with Cosmopolitan and Vogue) were passing time three years ago in an airport hotel. He wanted to show her an article in Playboy, but she was turned off by the magazine.
“If the same piece had been in Vogue, she probably wouldn’t have minded,” he recalled. “So a lightbulb went on in my head--why not do a magazine about relationships and sexuality for both men and women, a magazine they could both share.”
Although the concept runs against the prevailing current in the industry, which positions magazines first by gender and then by age and interests, Anthony says he stuck with his coed approach because he believed Notorious would be easy to promote and easy to turn into a brand by extending its reach into books, video and cable production.
The premiere issue, which features suggestive photographs (but no nudity), shows supermodel Eva Herzigova in a topless embrace of rocker Tico Torres on the cover. Inside: much more of the celebrity couple; “Guys Who Don’t Put Out”; a profile of security expert Gavin de Becker, who specializes in stalking cases; “Hangover Chic” (a languorous fashion spread stylized to look like the morning after the night before); and an irreverent “test drive” to confession at four Roman Catholic churches in the New York area.
Did Anthony, now 32, ask any of the major publishers to bankroll his idea?
“Of course, I did,” he said. “But this is something I want to do for the rest of my life. . . . They want magazines that help sell advertising.”
Instead, Anthony explained, he raised about $1 million from multiple investors, including Joseph P. Donelan, a paper broker who made a key commitment early in the magazine’s development. In addition, International Distillers and Vintners North America agreed to a major buy of 70 ad pages in the first few issues for its various brands, in exchange for the right to be the sole liquor advertiser. In an accommodation that would horrify many other magazine editors, the agreement requires Notorious to run the liquor ads with compatible editorial content--one for Cuervo Especial tequila, for example, adjoins a travel piece on Havana. However, Anthony insists that he’s not creating editorial for advertisers; he says that the ads happen to accompany standing features that he had conceived before the liquor deal came along.
Bottom line: Anthony said he has the financing to put out three more issues next year, after which he expects revenues to sustain what will be a six-times-yearly publishing schedule. It sounds optimistic. But so does Anthony, who expects a paid circulation of 200,000 by the end of 1998, starting with sales at select news vendors, Barnes & Noble and other bookstore chains.
The second recent start-up, NY city life, took shape in response to Editor in Chief Barbara Lovenheim’s mounting frustration with New York magazine and other publications covering the city. A contributor to New York in the 1980s, she found in more recent years that the mags’ coverage of trendy celebs and curious lifestyles was increasingly removed from her own sensibility.
Three years ago, Lovenheim began to collect others who shared her vision of a magazine that would address, in her words, “relationships, family life, careers, dressing well in affordable clothes.” Anne Mollegen Smith, who was a top editor at Redbook and McCall’s, became executive editor; Jack Berkowitz, president of the Nation, is a consultant to the venture; Kenneth Fadner, who worked at New York and Adweek, became the chief investor and signed on as publisher.
The 96-page fall premiere issue, whose cover shows Danish-born model Connie Nielsen slouched atop a yellow cab in her adopted city, is available on local newsstands and was delivered free of charge to readers who fit the target profile (30 to 60 years old, with a household income of $70,000 or more). It opens with an array of survival tips (library help lines, local Web sites, a cabaret primer, where to take kids and so on).
NY city life, a cheerful magazine without an attitude, plans to publish a second issue in the spring and switch to a monthly schedule in September.
Finally, of the numerous magazines that spill across this reporter’s desk each week, the premiere issue of Nest is an eye-catcher--and not only because the quarterly costs a cool $7.50 per copy and one of its corners is rounded off. The cover features Raymond Donahue’s bedroom, an obsessively maintained shrine to Farrah Fawcett, wallpapered row upon row with gleaming glam portraits of the actress from People, Redbook, Vogue and other magazines.
Donahue is a showroom decorator for IKEA stores. Nest: A Magazine of Interiors celebrates what Joseph Holtzman, its creative director and editor in chief, calls “human self-invention at home. . . . Nest wants to be read by anyone who wakes up in the morning or the afternoon with healthy curiosity about how others express themselves where they live.”
The upstart entry in the ever-expanding shelter category, which reflects its creator’s bid to counter what he sees as a repetitive approach by Architectural Digest and other design magazines, was stunningly printed in Italy. The soft-spoken Holtzman, 40, credits a close group of investors with backing his idea for a beautiful magazine, one whose initial distribution is a modest 50,000 copies.
“We are not going to be the first to report a trend, but we are going to be the first to analyze it,” he said in an interview last week. “I want to end up being the document that people might want to keep.”
At $7.50 a copy, one might at least pass it along to a friend.
A Memoir About Salinger: The year began with word that J.D. Salinger, the reigning recluse of American literature, was allowing an obscure publishing company to bring out his first book in 34 years. Orchises Press sooner or later plans to reprint his last published work, “Hapworth 16, 1924,” a long story that originally ran in the New Yorker.
The year is ending with word that author Joyce Maynard, one of the few individuals known to have penetrated Salinger’s privacy in remote New Hampshire, is writing a memoir that will describe her relationship with him during the nine months they lived together a quarter-century ago.
Maynard, 44, last week revealed to her former employer, the New York Times, that the Picador division of St. Martin’s Press would publish her book in winter 1999.
“I viewed him as my mentor and teacher and the person I trusted most in the world,” she told the paper. “He was the first man I ever loved.”
Although several other publishers said this week they had been unaware of plans for the book, it comes as little surprise that Maynard would get around to writing about the intensely private author of “The Catcher in the Rye.” After all, she has spoken publicly in the past about the interlude, and it seems to be one of the few chapters in her life that so far have not found their way into her soul-baring columns, books, magazine articles and online dispatches (https://www.joycemaynard.com) about being a wife (now divorced), mother of three and introspective soul.
Maynard’s career-launching cover story in the New York Times Magazine in 1972 (“An 18-Year-Old Looks Back on Life”) prompted Salinger, then 53, to write her. Soon after, he welcomed her into his home.
Afterwords At TV Guide, Jeff Jarvis is gone as resident “couch critic,” as Matt Roush, senior TV critic at USA Today since 1989, leaves the paper to become senior critic of the tube-top magazine.
* Paul D. Colford is a columnist for Newsday. His e-mail address is email@example.com. His column is published Thursdays.