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W2W: What to Watch - The Fall Of Martha Stewart, The Tough Go Shopping, Maturation Or Saturation?, The Primitivist Movement

Picking up after Martha…Trying to get Lucky…Sink or swim for the celebrity weeklies and lad magazines…Nothing slick about these mags.

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Don’t look for any contender to cotton to the “metrosexual” tag that increasingly looks bound for the dustbin of 2003. Vitals’ parent Details has already backed away from the overly moisturized stereotype, and Cargo’s trade campaign hammers the point home that red-blooded men shop, too. “I think some people can beat that one a little longer,” Katz said. “Cargo speaks to men and men who buy things. And I think that’s a pretty broad concept.”

Maturation Or Saturation?

Nobody grows forever. The success stories of formerly hot categories have tended to either settle into successful middle age or implode once a glut of imitators crowded into the field. What’s it going to be for 2003’s darlings, the celebrity weeklies, and their predecessor in the spotlight, the lad magazines?

They’ll be hard-pressed to repeat the results of their heydays. Both Dennis Publishing (Maxim, Stuff) and Emap (FHM) are searching for second acts now that their flagship titles appear to have plateaued. None of Dennis’ one-shot experiments to fuse the Maxim formula with other genres (Maxim Goes To The Movies; Stuff Gamer) caught fire the way Blender has, and the company is busy pouring cash into a direct-mail campaign for the not remotely laddish news digest, The Week. Emap, meanwhile, might finally import its own music franchise, Q, from the U.K., now that FHM has settled into steady but not spectacular growth. But neither company will be able to grow on lads alone.

Meanwhile, American Media’s David Pecker is convinced he can reheat his flagging tabloid division. His relaunch of the Star as a full-fledged glossy in January is designed to wring one last spurt of growth out of what observers agree is a fully mature business. Pecker might insist to the New York Post that the Star is making $1 million a week, but he’s also telling the Securities and Exchange Commission that AMI’s profits are shrinking while his interest payments rise. If Bonnie Fuller can’t hold on to readers while Pecker keeps raising the Star’s cover price, both will have to kiss plans goodbye for an AMI IPO anytime soon. And speaking of saturation — will readers continue to purchase the Star at $3.29 when In Touch is just $1.99 and People and Us Weekly sit nearby?

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