American Pie 27.11.03

Choosing Time magazine’s Person of the Year looks like being tougher than usual this year. Judging by the luncheon Time gave, to which it invited a scores of well-known journalists to let them air their views on who has this year had the biggest impact on the world. Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were considered non-starters. George Stephanopoulos, the former aide to Bill Clinton and now a TV talk show host, suggested Jesus and Mohammad, although Time’s managing editor, Jim Kelly, pointed out that traditionally dead people are not usually in the running. Arnold Schwarzenegger? Not really. Jessica Lynch? Again, not likely to garner many votes. Or how about sexy hotel chain heiress Paris Hilton. That created a nervous titter. My guess? Unless its a symbolic terrorist (or a doctor or scientist) it will be a double-choice: President Bush and Tony Blair. One or other alone is likely to create too much controversy. Together they could make the magazine’s cover at the year’s end.

First it was a paucity of ads; now it’s declining readership. US magazines are losing readers at a fast clip. Of more than 200 magazines surveyed, 132 report a dropoff in readers.The news magazines, including Time, Newsweek and US News and World Report, have suffered the most (down 7 per cent) followed by travel (down 6.6 per cent) and then men’s magazines ( down 5.2 per cent). Seemingly unfazed by the dropoff, publisher Felix Dennis went on TV here to claim his lads’ mags, notably Maxim, are still doing well. It was a rare interview – he has only given four in the past eight years. He didn’t mince words. Responding to the late GQ editor Art Cooper that Maxim’s readers are men who not only move their lips, they drool when they read, Dennis said: “The fact is we trashed GQ’s circulation. He just couldn’t stand it.”

There is one new magazine here that is hoping its readers will do some drooling of a different kind. It’s a magazine aimed at what it calls HNWIs. That’s an acronym for high net-worth individuals. Originally called Worth, it has been relaunched as Robb Report Worth, after being acquired by the company that publishes The Robb Report, a guide for connoisseurs. The first issue, which hit the news-stands this week, gives advice on investing in yachts and racehorses. The publishers point out that there are more than two million Americans with a net worth of more than a million dollars. But the magazine is after those with even more assets – $5m (£2.95m) or more, and an income of at least $500,000 a year. “We will be writing for affluent readers, not about them,” says editor-in-chief Dwight Cass. “We won’t be Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.”

A former Financial Times journalist is making a name – and reportedly a lot of money – from a raunchy website called Fleshbot. It’s a spin-off from a gossip site called Gawker which Nick Denton started after quitting financial journalism and which rapidly became a “must visit” for those looking for the sort of gossip you don’t find in the New York Post or Daily News. Denton hit the jackpot when, in the first week, his website got access to the now notorious home-video tape made by Paris Hilton. After acquiring the tape, Fleshbot had more than a million visitors. At the moment Denton says his site is only making a few thousand dollars a month, which he describes as “lemonade stand” money, but believes there is a big future in websites – or blogs – such as his.

By Jeffrey Blyth

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