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A RETURN TO HEALTH: It wasn’t all doom and gloom in the first-half magazine circulation reports. The redesign of the oft-overlooked (at least in New York media) Health magazine seems to have gained some traction: The magazine is up about 10 percent on the newsstand, notwithstanding a price increase to $3.99 from $3.50.

Of course, Health’s newsstand is still a fraction of the other health and fitness titles, like Self and Shape, which tend to draw a larger proportion of their readers from the newsstand, and which on average sell around five times Health’s new number, 77,043. The magazine also said its subscription responses from blow-in cards was up 11 percent. Total circulation in the first half rose to 1,383,173.

Health has seen a lot. Time Inc., which acquired the magazine in full in 1990, uprooted it in 2001 from San Francisco to Birmingham, Ala., under the Southern Progress Corp. In the following years, the magazine rapidly went from selling around 120,000 copies on the newsstand to about half that, a move a spokeswoman now attributes to reducing the draw to make the magazine more efficient. With few staff willing to move to Alabama, it also became a different magazine from the one that had won four National Magazine Awards. It also, according to current editor in chief Ellen Kunes, became more profitable.

Kunes, who assumed her post last year, worked for many years at Hearst, including, briefly, as the launch editor in chief of O, the Oprah magazine, and later as the editor in chief of Redbook. (She was reportedly replaced because of flagging newsstand sales, though those sales have continued to dramatically drop since.) “I worked with the brilliant Kate White for many years at Cosmo, and she taught me everything I know about writing cover lines,” she said. Though she said the proportion of diet and fitness stories in Health hasn’t changed, “I probably tout it more on the cover” — usually a newsstand winner.

Kunes redesigned the magazine with the March issue, hiring Celebrity Concepts and Marketing in Florida to book celebrities like Kristin Davis for the cover, and aiming at an “affluent, educated group of women” seeking a healthy lifestyle. “We boil it down and make it simple for people, show them that it’s accessible and enjoyable, not some kind of drudgery,” Kunes said. And in this economy, the last thing one needs is drudgery.

— Irin Carmon
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