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Talk to Utter Its Final Issue

Media: The monthly devoted to culture blames shutdown on weak ad revenue.

January 19, 2002|CORIE BROWN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Talk magazine, the monthly devoted to culture and celebrities and the brainchild of publishing maven Tina Brown and movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, said Friday that it will cease publication, 21/2 years after its launch.

The glossy magazine, headed by former New Yorker magazine editor Brown, and jointly owned by Walt Disney Co.'s Miramax Films and Hearst Corp., blamed the shutdown on the economy as advertising revenues for the magazine industry fell 10% in 2001, when the economy began slowing into a recession.

"It's been a tough year, one of the worst in the history of the magazine industry," said Leo Kivijarv, a media analyst with Veronis, Suhler & Associates Inc., noting that Mademoiselle, McCalls and the Industry Standard have folded in recent months.

Unveiled at a star-studded party in New York with Madonna during a media boom in 1999, Talk's first issue published a revealing interview with Hillary Rodham Clinton.

"The lavish editorial product wasn't something that Hearst could live with," said Jerry McGee, president of the Los Angeles office of advertising agency J. Walter Thompson. "The number of readers didn't justify the expense."

Talk also paled when compared with Hearst's other new title, O: The Oprah Magazine, a bona fide hit.

The February issue will be the magazine's final one. "I know that the magazine was stronger than it has ever been," Brown said. "The fact is that the ad recession was so intense that it made it impossible to find another investor in this environment."

Brown needed a new investor, according to company sources, because after the partnership sank $50 million into the magazine, Hearst wanted out. Last year, Talk Media hired investment bankers Allen & Co. to find an investor to replace Hearst.

"The cost to produce a general interest magazine at this level is high," Brown said.

Renowned for reviving Vanity Fair magazine in the 1980s, Brown became editor of The New Yorker in 1992.

Brown called the staff into Talk's Manhattan conference room late Friday to tell them that the magazine was going out of business.

Talk had a total staff of 100.

The magazine's vital statistics were improving, just not fast enough. Advertising pages were up 6% last year over 2000 with ad revenue up 25%. And circulation was up 20% from a year ago--to 670,000--with the February issue.

Talk Miramax Books, owned solely by Miramax Films, will continue its operations with Brown remaining as chairwoman. It plans to publish upcoming titles by former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

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