L.A. Times Debuts Magazine Aimed at Richest Angelenos
By DARRELL SATZMAN
If your household income is less than $500,000 per year, this story is not for you.
That’s not quite the message Angeles Publications, a new division of the Los Angeles Times, is putting out with its new magazine, Distinction. But it does get to the heart of the strategy.
In the past couple of weeks, 50,000 copies of the first issue of Distinction were mailed, unsolicited, to some of the most expensive addresses in Los Angeles and Orange counties. An additional 6,000 copies of the bimonthly are being distributed to newsstands and upscale retailers, hotels and spas. Newsstand issues sell for $4.95.
It’s a distribution model that Tribune Co., parent of the Los Angeles Times, believes will pay off by offering high-end advertisers quality i.e. readers with scads of disposable income as opposed to quantity.
Distinction, which answers to the Times’ advertising section but is separated editorially from the newspaper, is a luxury lifestyle magazine aimed primarily at women that delves into what Publisher Jane Kahn called L.A.’s often “invisible” society scene, including businesspeople, philanthropists and cultural figures.
“New York has very identifiable people who are involved in society,” said Kahn, a former West Coast director of Town & Country and Harper’s Bazaar for Hearst Magazines. “We’ve allowed these people to remain anonymous in L.A. It’s a part of our community that exists behind the celebrity curtain.”
The debut issue is a light mix of fashion and interior design layouts and includes articles about the engagement of a young society couple, unsung acts of philanthropy, and a profile of 1970s “It Girl” Lisa Taylor Jones, who appears on the cover.
What Distinction is not doing, Kahn said, is devoting its editorial coverage to the comings and goings of Hollywood celebrities, typical fodder for glossy magazines.
The nearly 150-page first issue is sprinkled with full-page ads from luxury brands like Harry Winston, BMW, Mercedes Benz, Norwegian Cruise Line, Ritz-Carlton and Versace.
Locally, the ad mix is more eclectic, with the Los Angeles Opera, Samy’s Camera, DBL Realtors and South Coast Plaza. Other advertisers include Nordstrom, Robinsons-May, Macy’s, Target and Verizon Wireless.
“The whole look, feel, tone and texture is targeted to women,” said Tom Weston, chief executive and president of the Weston Group, a Los Angeles advertising firm. “It’s an acknowledgement by the Times that whether it’s the new Lamborghini or the new mansion in Beverly Hills, the woman in the household is impacting that decision in a way the men don’t.”
Although Kahn would eventually like to increase circulation, there are no plans to deviate from the controlled circulation model. “We’ve seen a lot of magazines come and go in this market and we think this is a good business decision,” Kahn said.
Among local publications, Los Angeles magazine is the most likely direct competitor.
Erika Anderson, advertising director for the monthly city magazine, which Emmis Communication Corp. purchased from Walt Disney Co. three years ago, said advertising sales have been up 30 percent this year over 2002, suggesting there is room in the market for a solid competitor.
“It’s a crowded field, but it’s always been a crowded field,” Anderson said. “Contrary to the stereotype, there is a group of savvy, educated, hip, cultured individuals in L.A., as there are in other cities in the country, who are hungry for the written word.”
Besides the Times, other newspapers have been looking toward niche publications to recapture some of the advertising lost over the years to other media and more targeted publications.
Last year, Tribune acquired Chicago magazine from Primedia Inc. for $35 million, and through its subsidiary, Chicago land Publishing Co., puts out a variety of niche publications on topics from cars to apartment hunting. Last October, the Chicago Tribune launched a new weekly, Red Eye, that targets a more youthful audience than its paper reaches.
“It’s an ability to go to their advertising base and say, ‘We have an efficient way to reach and target a demographic that’s very important to you,'” he said. “And their rate card is very attractive at first blush.”
A full-page, four-color ad in Distinction sells for just under $4,000, much lower than magazines with higher but less targeted distribution.
The fact that Kahn answers to the Times’ advertising department has raised a few hackles among the newspaper’s editorial department, for whom the 1999 Staples Center fiasco remains fresh.
In that notorious event, the Los Angeles Times magazine agreed to share profits with Staples Center in an issue that was devoted entirely to the new arena. The paper acknowledged that ethical missteps were made.
Times spokesman David Garcia said that such concerns are misplaced because there is no collaboration between the newspaper’s editorial staff and the magazine.
By utilizing the sales staff of the Times and other Tribune and Los Angeles Times resources, however, Distinction is being run on a shoestring. The magazine has three and half full-time employees, according to Kahn, and relies on stable of freelancers for editorial content.
Owner: Angeles Publications (a division of the Los Angeles Times)
Publisher: Jane Kahn
Staffing: Fewer than 4 full-time editorial
employees with stable of freelance writers,
photographers and designers
Cost: Controlled circulation model means no charge for those who receive magazine at home. Newsstand price is $4.95
The Sept. 1 story “L.A. Times Debuts Magazine Aimed at Richest Angelenos” (above) misstated the parent company of Angeles Publications. It is Tribune Los Angeles Inc., a division of Los Angeles Times owner Tribune Co., which was created to develop publications not directly related to the newspaper.