Big publishing companies usually follow one of two routes when launching a magazine. They measure reader interest by distributing a test issue on newsstands, or they refine a magazine idea, use it to attract subscribers and then introduce the publication with plans for a long run.
Conde Nast Currency will arrive next week by a third route--and in huge numbers. The new personal-finance magazine is being bagged and sent to subscribers along with the April issues of all 15 Conde Nast monthlies.
That's 9.2 million copies of Vanity Fair, Glamour, Vogue, Self, GQ and the others. Currency also will be wedded to newsstand copies of Bride's.
Edited by money expert Suze Orman, author of "The 9 Steps to Financial Freedom" (Crown), Currency reflects a concerted effort by Conde Nast to get a bigger piece of the roughly $700 million a year spent advertising financial services in print. Dreyfus, T. Rowe Price and Charles Schwab are among the advertisers in the first issue, which features customized editorial content on IRAs, financial planners, prenuptial agreements and other topics for affluent baby boomers (who receive Vogue and Vanity Fair), aspiring younger readers (Details and Allure) and old money (Architectural Digest and Conde Nast Traveler).
Cover boy Jason Alexander reveals that earning $600,000 a week as the famously cheap George Costanza of NBC's "Seinfeld" has not offset his fear that "something could happen, a catastrophic illness."
His advice about money to the rest of us?
"Make sure you earn it. Don't take it unless you should, and don't expect it unless you have reason to."
Less a full-blown launch than a stealth marketing vehicle with easy-to-absorb content, Currency is scheduled to have three more issues next year.
Oscar Fever in Print: The approach of Oscar night has long been the impetus for magazines to run their most striking pics of stars and to assess who's hottest among Hollywood's young comers. With $20 or so to spend, a visitor to a well-stocked newsstand this week could walk off with enough Hollywood gloss to last until the Academy Awards broadcast March 23.
Besides such usual suspects as Entertainment Weekly ("All the Top Nominees!"), Premiere ("The New Breed") and Movieline ("Young Hollywood"), Oscar fever has spread to Civilization and Modern Maturity.
Civilization, the intellectual magazine of the Library of Congress and which was acquired last year by Capital Publishing, invited filmmaker Martin Scorsese to guest-edit its February-March issue. Among Scorsese's inspired choices, Garry Wills chronicles the painstaking restoration of "All Quiet on the Western Front," first released in 1930, and ace animator Chuck Jones recalls how "the bread and butter of Warner Bros. merchandising"--Bugs Bunny, Wile E. Coyote, Daffy Duck and other critters--emerged decades ago despite the tyranny of the studio's head cartoon producer, Leon Schlesinger.
Modern Maturity, the behemoth that goes out to 20 million members of the American Assn. of Retired Persons, devotes much of its March-April issue to star power among mature performers. Aljean Harmetz, the film journalist and historian, says that power in Hollywood belongs to those "who can (1) get a movie made, and (2) get people into the theater--particularly on a movie's critical opening weekend." Identifying those she considers the 50 most powerful actors over age 50, she begins with Clint Eastwood, age 67; Harrison Ford, 55; Michael Douglas, 53; Robert Redford, 60; Arnold Schwarzenegger, 50; Sean Connery, 67; Morgan Freeman, 60; Jack Nicholson, 61; Barbra Streisand, 56, and the duo of Jack Lemmon, 73, and Walter Matthau, 77.
Meanwhile, Vanity Fair next week will unveil what traditionally is its biggest seller of the year: Its fourth annual Hollywood package will run 408 pages, the fattest issue in the magazine's history. This time, the triple-foldout cover will feature men and women together, not a lineup of young actresses in sexy lingerie (1995), up-and-coming actors (1996) or actresses in fabulous evening wear (1997). Photographed by Annie Leibovitz, this year's lucky 11 are Joaquin Phoenix, Vince Vaughn, Natalie Portman, Djimon Hounsou, Cate Blanchett, Tobey Maguire, Claire Forlani, Gretchen Mol, Christina Ricci, Edward Furlong and Rufus Sewell.
The Best Alternative Mags:
Utne Reader, the bimonthly digest that presents the best pieces found in alternative media, recently announced the winners of its 1997 Alternative Press Awards.
Among the 11 honorees are Hope, best new title, a magazine of "optimistic activism" based in Brooklin, Maine; Blind Spot, for design excellence, a New York publication that mixes "great photography with intriguing snippets of prose and poetry"; and Hip Mama, a publication out of Oakland, honored for lifestyle coverage because it "speaks (and listens) to parents who want or need to raise kids their own way."
DoubleTake, a provocative quarterly published by the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, in Durham, N.C., that was nominated last spring for a National Magazine Award, won Utne's awards for general excellence (more than 15,000 circulation) and writing excellence.
* Paul D. Colford is a columnist for Newsday. His e-mail address is email@example.com. His column is published Thursdays.