Memo Pad: Jane's GoodBye... Sobering Up

Conde Nast's decision to fold Jane magazine early Monday was, despite a well-respected editor and a publisher brought in for a turnaround, widely considered inevitable for a magazine long on life support.

Indeed, George Janson, managing partner and director of print of Mediaedge:cia said, "There have been a lot of questions for some time about the magazine and its vitality. Circulation was the main concern."

The magazine was redesigned in September 2004 by founder Jane Pratt, then twice more by Holley in March 2006 and this April. But newsstand sales continued to sink 14.8 percent in the first half of last year, and 20.4 percent in the second. Total circulation in the second half of last year grew 1.9 percent, to 713,581, but partly on the strength of 152,800 verified copies, which are largely giveaways, or public place distribution.

The closure plausibly came as a surprise to Holley, who was set to leave Monday for Uganda with Natalie Portman for a story in the December-January issue, and reportedly had met the Friday before with vice president for editorial operations Rick Levine to discuss the Web site budget for 2010.

After Holley and Lamadrid were told, Condé Nast Publications president chief executive officer Charles Townsend, executive vice president for human resources Jill Bright and editorial director Tom Wallace addressed the staff, Lamadrid said.

Condé Nast Publications chairman S.I. Newhouse Jr. is said to have seriously considered pulling the plug back in July 2005, at Pratt's departure, but changed his mind. For her part, Pratt, who now hosts a talk radio show on Sirius, said she was sad but not surprised. "I left with the idea hoping that it would do really well…[but] I was not involved with the selection of the editor in chief. So from the moment [my departure] was announced, I didn't have anything to do with the magazine," she said. "At that point, once I saw where it was going, no, I didn't think it would last forever." She added, "I think that it became a lot like the other magazines out there."

Throughout the past year, Jane's editor and publisher tried to counter persistent doubts about the magazine's future by positioning it as newly relevant to a zeitgeist change among twentysomethings from, in the words of its marketing materials, "antiestablishment/angry/slackers" to "pretty/fun/optimistic." They insisted that the long-term corporate investment in the title and its Web site indicated no plans to shutter it, and Wallace assured WWD in August that the company was pleased with Jane's metrics. Even through the difficult year that followed, Jane's executives had privately pointed to House & Garden, a title that the company had allowed to flounder for years without shutting it down a second time. But, unlike House & Garden, one of the original Condé Nast magazines, Jane was something of a stepchild in the reorganized Condé Nast, a small title launched under Fairchild Publications.
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