Newstand News

MEDIA WATCH

OF the nearly 500 magazines introduced in the United States last year, only half are still around; within four years, only 20 percent will still be published, says magazine watcher Samir Husni. The key to success, says Dr. Husni, associate professor of journalism at the University of Mississippi, is offering a unique product and directing it to a specific audience - four or six times a year rather than 12. Here's a look at two new ones:

Mirabella

Published by Rupert Murdoch, this glossy women's magazine is named for its editor-in-chief, Grace Mirabella, the former Vogue editor (for 17 years) until she was ousted last summer.

The first issue, distributed in June (priced at $1; subsequent issues are $2.95 newsstand), sold out 700,000 copies; the second 600,000; and the third is available now. Advertising pages for the first issue were high: 123 of 268 total pages. Though they dropped in July and August, traditionally ``soft'' months, they're up to 150 pages in September.

The magazine, according to Ms. Mirabella, differs from other fashion magazines by offering style rather than fleeting trends. ``What we're trying to reach is a woman ... with a certain sensibility ... whose focus is willing to accept a little bit more,'' she says.

But while the breadth of content is intriguing - from profiles of working women and artists to fashion-photo collages - it lacks consistency. The August issue features a thoughtful look at the animal-rights movement: from ``cruelty free'' (no animal testing) beauty products to the growing number of designers who refuse to use furs.

Turn the page, and you will find bold photos of fur coats accompanied by ecstatic promotional copy.

Though analyst Husni says Mirabella lacks ``unique identity.... I've seen it all somewhere before,'' he says that with Murdoch backing it, the magazine is probably here to stay.

WigWag

Due out with an October issue, WigWag - meaning to send code signals - comes from a staff of former New Yorker editors. But, they insist, their magazine will not be a clone, will not try to be sophisticated, and will not focus on one city.

Says publisher Samuel Schulman: ``We offer a picture of American life that is ... the way people live, and not the way celebrities spend their money or conduct themselves behind closed doors or doors slightly ajar. We're not a magazine of vicarious experience.''

In addition to regular writers Richard Ford, Peter Mattheissen, Jane Smiley, and Witold Rybczynski, there will be feature columns. One of these will be on gadgets. ``Rather than describing the size of Donald Trump's yacht,'' says Mr. Schulman, ``we have a column of interesting gadgets you can buy for $6.95 ... and ways to use them around the house.''

``We see ourselves as celebratory in a way that people in publishing have been afraid to celebrate for fear of being corny,'' says Schulman. ``But we will be regarded as astonishingly hip.

The magazine's name bothers Husni. Readers take two to five seconds to look at magazine covers, he says, and, rather than intrigue, a name like WigWag will confuse them. ``It's going to be an uphill battle,'' he predicts. ``It's going to be hard to sit down and read.... We have more skimmers than readers these days.''

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