Guccione Jr. Has Omnivorous Appetite: Wants Omni, Travel Title Too

Opening a new chapter in one of America's most storied publishing dynasties, Bob Guccione Jr. is in talks with his father Bob Guccione Sr. to acquire Omni, the seminal science and science fiction magazine that spawned a new category of consumer magazines, including Discover, the publication Guccione Jr. now presides over as CEO. The deal would represent an ironic full circle for the magazines, because Discover was launched by Time Inc. 27 years ago to compete with Omni.

Omni, which was launched in 1978 by Guccione Sr., the founder and publisher of Penthouse magazine, was a critically acclaimed mix of science and science fiction that quickly attracted a devoted readership base, selling more than 1 million copies a month. It filled a niche between the academic-oriented Scientific American and the pedestrian Popular Science, and proved there was a market for a glossy magazine about science and science fiction, attracting top writers and editors along the way.

Time Inc. launched Discover in 1980, partly in response to the success of Omni, and now Guccione Jr. tells MediaDailyNews he'd like to revive it as a "high-gloss science fiction quarterly" early next year. Omni ceased publication as a monthly print magazine in 1996, and a Web version of the magazine was disbanded in 1998.

"It would be much more science fiction" than Discover, Guccione Jr. says, adding that it would also feature some big-name columnists writing about real science.

Guccione Jr. characterized his prospects of acquiring the Omni trademark from is father as "good," and said Guccione Sr. might play an "advisory role" in the magazine's relaunch.

The revival of Omni magazine is just one of several expansion plans Guccione Jr. has to transform Discover Inc. into a diversified media company. Other plans include a spin-off travel magazine that might leverage the Discover imprint. Travel is a natural diversification, he says, because data indicates that Discover's readers index highest among the travel category.

Guccione Jr. acquired Discover in October 2005 from the Walt Disney Co., which had previously acquired it from Time Inc., and has spent much of the past 18 months revitalizing its readership and advertising base, discarding much of the "junk" circulation it has inherited over the years to make it more appealing to Madison Avenue.

Guccione Jr. is perhaps best known as the founder of Spin, a glossy magazine that offered music fans a younger, brasher alternative to Rolling Stone.