American Pie 08.11.01

One unusual after effect of the anthrax alert is the costly slowdown in the printing speed of some magazines. Many printers of glossy magazines use cornstarch to help ink dry and to reduce static cling. No one noticed before, but sometimes there is a tiny amount of starch still visible when magazines reach the news-stands. Some readers panicked when they spotted it – and even called the police and medics fearing it was anthrax. Among the callers were subscribers to Vogue,Vanity Fair, In Style and even Reader’s Digest. Tom Ryder, head of Reader’s Digest, said: "Now we have to convince readers our magazines are not going to kill them." The US’s largest printing company, RR Donnelly, has stopped using cornstarch until it finds a less worrisome substitute.


One magazine that is weathering the economic decline is Bride’s Magazine. For the third year running, it is reporting record advertising pages – 2,906 up to the end of September. It’s now the No.1 in ad pages – ahead of weeklies such as People, TV Guide and Time, and monthlies such as Vogue and In Style. The magazine, now 66 years old, has a readership of almost 7 million – and is apparently recession-proof.


Although their ad pages are down, most newspapers here have seen sales jump as a result of the war news. Circulation of the New York Post has risen by 22 per cent. The Daily News is up by 4 per cent and The New York Times by 1 per cent. USA Today suffered a 1 per cent drop, largely because of a decline in sales at hotels and airports, but continues to be No.1 overall in the US with sales of 2,243,000 copies. The Wall Street Journal came in second with 1,780,000 – an increase of just over 1 per cent. But some analysts fear they won’t be able to hold on to the extra readers. After the Gulf War, sales, which had gone up, declined to their old levels – and continued dropping.


Noticeably absent from the pages of The National Enquirer, The Star and their sister tabloids is any mention of Osama bin Laden -or any stories about the terror now stalking the US. David Pecker, chief executive officer of American Media, insists it has nothing to do with the anthrax that took the life of Star photo editor Bob Stevens. Research shows, he claimed, that readers are getting their fill of war stories from TV and are once again looking to the tabloids for entertainment.


More lay-offs are expected in the coming months at magazines here. At the Folio Conference in New York, Hearst Magazines president Cathy Black predicted that magazines will have to cut their staff in an effort to bring down costs. Felix Dennis pointed out that putting out a magazine in Britain requires half as many people as it does here. US publishers, he suggested, will have to do something about "massive overstaffing" in the next five years. Nevertheless, he can afford to be happy about the success of some of his publications in the US. Maxim now has a circulation of 2,500,000, while Stuff, just two years old, has topped 1,100,000. Maxim has also just inked a deal with Harrah’s, the big casino company in Las Vegas, to sponsor a series of parties intended to lure celebrities, and of course, more gamblers to the desert resort. Says Stephen Colvin, head of Dennis Publishing in New York: "Vegas is back in fashion – especially among our readers."

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