Hearst Challenges Magazine Curse

Apr 9, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Hearst Magazines Editorial Director Ellen Levine says this time, things will be different.

The company’s new deal with Fox Television Studios to develop Web programs — and possibly television shows — based on magazines isn’t like previous agreements that have dared to mix publishing and TV, a combination with a long history of producing unloved offspring.

The Fox TV Studios plan aims to avoid the fate of past TV misfires such as “Miss Seventeen” (Seventeen magazine meets MTV) or “Sports Illustrated Fresh Faces Competition” (SI meets NBC). That has led the partners to the Internet, where the magazines’ readers already are catching up on content via publications’ Web sites.

“We’re not going out there and saying we’re going to have a one-hour magazine show,” Ms. Levine said. “We’re going to create material for new platforms, not take previously existing material and dust it off for television.”

With print ad revenues declining, magazines have looked for ways to maximize their brands online. Ms. Levine said Hearst Magazines’ revenue is healthy, but the company must adjust to how consumers want their media.

“If you don’t follow your audience, you’ll perish,” she said. “A lot of these [online projects] give you the opportunity to bring something to life that you can’t on the page, and give the product a credibility that you wouldn’t otherwise have without the brand.”

Conversations with advertisers for Cosmo Girl and Popular Mechanics webisodes are still in early stages, she said.

The Fox TV Studios deal is a small part of Hearst Corp.’s television business, which includes 29 stations and investments in several cable networks, including ESPN and A&E.

Hearst, Fox Studios Work the Web