Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Latest LA Times' Madness - The Sunday Magazine is Now an AdZine

By Ken Doctor
{This is an excerpt. Complete article:}

... This week ... word leaks out that the Los Angeles Times Magazine, one of the few remaining Sunday magazines, has been seized in a coup by the Times' business side. Its editors and writers are out -- maybe there's a Planet Runway-like Journalist Elimination reality show David Hiller can sell to his new Hollywood friends (check out this good LA Observed piece on Hiller "being star-struck by the glamour of his adopted hometown"). Former InStyle and L.A. Style Editor Annie Gilbar will apparently head the new mag.

The decision to launch (re-launch) a new advertiser-friendly magazine in and of itself is no shocker, and not a bad idea. The New York Times and the Boston Globe are just two of numerous well-regarded papers to plumb design, home, fashion and more, going after high-end and luxury dollars. Such magazines can be run by editorial departments; they can be run by advertising departments. The key is to clearly and prominently tell your readers who is producing the section. Readers aren't dummies; they take in the content for what it is.

But at the Times, of course, the situation had to blow up, handled in an unbelievably clumsy way. You'd think that the paper's recent historic memory over the secret Staples Center "sponsorship" and revenue sharing of and with a "special section" -- which cost the jobs of then-editor Michael Parks and then-publisher Kathryn Downing -- should have been instructive, even if it did happen a year before Tribune bought the Times.

But, no, the Times managed to make the elimination of the L.A. Times Magazine (which had become monthly) and its replacement with an ad product another debacle. Why not close the L.A. Times Magazine, sending it to an eternal rest that most of its brethren have found in the last couple of decades. Then, have your business side launch all the high-demo magazines you want. It seems so simple.

Maybe, it's that Publisher David Hiller indeed wants to keep the name of the magazine intact, playing sleight of hand with readers. Maybe he's not sure yet. But he's managed to leave new (installed in February) editor Russ Stanton dangling in the wind, pleading that the name not being, shall we say, re-purposed. You could place bets on Stanton's half-life before this controversy, as the Times has managed an unprecedented turnover in its publisher and top editor ranks (well-chronicled here by Joe Strupp). Odds on Stanton's tenure shifted this week. ...

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