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2009 July 17

Out of Town...and Country?

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(NEW YORK) While Page Six reported today that Hearst has been quietly searching for a new editor to replace Pamela Fiori at Town&Country, other industry insiders are buzzing that Hearst is planning to close the title entirely. "We don't discuss specific personnel or tenures," said a Hearst spokesperson, "But I can tell you that Town&Country continues to be an important part of Hearst's portfolio."

Really? Take a look at Townandcountrymag.com. Within the last three years, Hearst's Digital division has aggressively invested funds in relaunching websites at fellow flagship titles like Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, Esquire, and Seventeen. Town&Country's site remains strictly a subscription model rather than a brand ambassador that offers original content. The magazine's core audience--philanthropists and social types both established and aspiring--looks increasingly to the web for event coverage, where it is chronicled in real time.

To put it mildly, this readership is mostly movitvated by the desire to reflect on their own image. Town&Country has long been the gold standard for such placements in print, but with the ever-increasing importance of the online and mobile interaction, it is unable to keep up with the competiton. Townandcountrymag.com appears to be updated merely monthly to promote the latest cover, and offers little to court readers with news, photos, or blogs.

"There are no current plans for an upgrade," responded the Hearst spokesperson. "The sites aren't and never have been a huge focus for us due to the fact that T&C's affluent audience spends less time online than some of our other brands' audiences. T&C is primarily a subscription-driven magazine and we have a very loyal fan base for the print product."

Since its inception in 1846, Town&Country has been one of old media's most iconic titles. What began as a relatively straightforward chronicle of the upper class has evolved into a general-interest book focused on lifestyle under the leadership of Fiori, who was named editor-in-chief in May 1993. Prior to arriving at Hearst, she spent 14 years as executive vice president and editorial director at American Express Publishing Corporation, overseeing all editorial operations for Travel & Leisure, Food & Wine and Departures.

During her tenure at Town&Country, Fiori has courted a younger set of readers with in-depth coverage of beauty, travel, fashion, politics, and social issues. She grew the brand by launching Town&Country Travel and Town&Country Weddings in 2003. One of of the most prominent philanthropists in New York, Fiori served as a founding co-chairperson of UNICEF's Snowflake Project. In 2007, Fiori was awarded the prestigious Matrix Award for magazine journalism by Women in Communications, Inc.. She is reputed to be a formidable businesswoman and personally responsible for relationships with many of Town&Country's core advertisers.

Last Friday, the Publishers Information Bureau reported first half advertising and paging figures. As expected, the luxury sector took a significant hit. Town&Country fell 43% to 429 pages; fellow society chronicler W was down 44% to 491.
ASHLEY BAKER




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