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2010 May 12

Why Doesn't Elle Have More Knockoffs?

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The City stars Whitney Port, Joe Zee, Erin Kaplan and Roxy Olin The City stars Whitney Port, Joe Zee, Erin Kaplan and Roxy Olin
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(NEW YORK) Does Giorgio Armani watch The City? Has he even heard of it? Where it was once seen as louche for luxury magazines (and, by extension, their advertisers) to engage with the likes of Bravo and the CW, the times are clearly changing---if they haven't already done so irrevocably. Carol Smith deserves more credit than she's received for bringing Project Runway to Elle (and she got plenty). Fortuitously, the mag's television partnerships have grown ever since. The 2008 reality show Stylista, which starred Elle's Anne Slowey as an editrix in need of an assistant, was not renewed for a second season on the CW despite a glowing Times review and ratings much higher than the oft-ignored High Society, which will be brought back for a second season.(See you in the Hamptons!) Blame an abysmal season of America's Next Top Model, which served a weak lean-in for Tinsley Mortimer and company.

This season, Elle is back on prime time, starring in MTV's The City, which draws around 1.5 million viewers an episode. The magazine is the only entirely appealing character on the show, and perhaps that decision was intentional. Erin Kaplan, Joe Zee, Robbie Myers---all are quite likeable in reality, and all play caricatures on reality TV. As it should be, for this type of audience, which believes that "accessories editor" Olivia Palermo is actually an employee of the magazine.

Industry types know The City's storyline represents a scripted (if not entirely fabricated) side of Elle---and so what? It's pure entertainment, and from a circulation standpoint, pure genius. Despite whatever drame is playing out on MTV, this team is putting out a world-class magazine every month and building their brand issue by issue and episode by episode. Elle's median age has been gradually lowering and is now 32.9 years old. Harper's Bazaar's is 38, Marie Claire's is 34.1, Vogue's is 34.5, and InStyle's is 35.5.

Clearly, this TV stuff is working, so why aren't more magazines following suit? Everyone knows that it's not enough just to be a print product these days---but many titles at Hearst and Condé Nast are still pursuing the web (and only the web) as l'avenue for growth. Are the staid and stalwart publishing houses still wary of reality television, or is Andy Cohen taking meetings The Daily doesn't (yet) know about? Well, Smith is over at 4 Times Square...
ASHLEY BAKER




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