Shown the door were Seventeen vice president/publisher Ellen Abramowitz and editor-in-chief Sabrina Weill. Abramowitz was replaced by Redbook vice president/publisher Jayne Jamison, while CosmoGIRL! editor-in-chief Atoosa Rubenstein assumed Weill's post. Susan Schulz was promoted from executive editor to fill Rubenstein's former role; replacements for Jamison and Schulz have not yet been named.
Speculation about the future of Seventeen's top duo had abounded since Hearst snapped up the mag and its companion properties from Primedia for $182.4 million in May. Not surprisingly, most pundits assumed that Hearst would place its own people in the publisher and editor-in-chief slots sooner rather than later. "It's to be expected," says Rebecca McPheters, president of publishing consultancy McPheters and Co. "Generally, when a magazine is sold, the people who are buying assume that they can do more with it than the people who are selling."
Of course, the recent downward trend in Seventeen's ad pages and revenue couldn't have helped the outgoing regime's case. Over the last few years, the venerable title had lost ground to a host of younger competitors, and the trend continued into 2003. According to Publishers Information Bureau (PIB), Seventeen ran 537.5 ad pages in the first six months of this year, generating $49.8 million in ad revenue. Those numbers represented a 7.8 and 7.1% drop, respectively, over the same period in 2002.
By comparison, CosmoGIRL! gained momentum during that time, even as Seventeen, Teen People and others within the gal-mag category stalled. CosmoGIRL! is up 23.9% in ad pages (to 328.8) and 54.2% in ad revenue (to $26.4 million) over 2002 levels.
As for Jamison, she leaves Redbook in a significantly better competitive position than it was in when she joined. The publication has surged past many of its "six sisters" in both readership and circulation, with 2002 proving the best year in terms of ad pages and revenue in the mag's 99-year history. The momentum has carried over into 2003: according to PIB, Redbook surged 33.4% in ad pages (to 719.0 from 538.9) and 40.7% in ad revenue (to $77.0 million from $54.8 million) over the year-ago period.
This isn't to imply that restoring Seventeen to its past preeminence will be easy. Due to the influx of new publications in recent years, there are around 10 titles chasing the same advertising dollars. Thus unless entertainment, fashion and beauty advertisers suddenly decide to loosen the purse strings, the turnaround won't happen overnight.
"It's an intensely competitive category at a time when magazines are generally still recovering from the ad climate of the last few years," McPheters says. "But it also has a lot to do with the number of [magazines] in it. For years, the reality was that teens preferred other media sources to print. And then all of a sudden you had these new and successful magazines, which shook things up and made it more difficult for the established players."
As for the changes at Seventeen, McPheters shrugs: "It's a difficult category. You just fiddle with things until you get it right."