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Will Women Think Pink?

With more than 100 women's magazines already on newsstands, one might think the market has hit its saturation point. Just this year, however, 16 new titles catering to women have surfaced, following the launch of 19 last year. Hence, editors and publishers, not to mention readers, continue to ask: Is there really that much more to say?

"Lots," says Cynthia Good, founding editor of Pink, slated for a June 14 debut. "Today, there's no national magazine that addresses the needs and interests of career women," she says. With the motto "a magazine for professional women," Pink's charter is to serve members of America's fast-growing workplace demographic -- women executives, managers, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders (see BW Online, 5/31/05, "Catching Newsstand Fever").

IDEOLOGY AND IRRELEVANCE. Despite its seemingly unique target market, Pink is actually wandering down a path already trodden by Working Woman and Ms. magazines. Working Woman was started in 1976 to address the needs and spell out the rights of the women who were pouring into the workplace. Despite a healthy circulation of more than 600,000, it published its last issue in the summer of 2001 after running into financial trouble.

Ms., launched in 1971 by Gloria Steinem, emerged as the voice of feminism. A dynamic magazine, it often butted heads with its advertisers, eventually eschewing them entirely to survive on subscriptions. In 2001, it got a new owner, the Feminist Majority Foundation, which plans to turn it into a nonprofit venture that will accept advertising only from organizations with strong feminist ties. Today, it has a circulation of 200,000, down from 500,000 at its peak.

The track record of both these magazines might seem to forebode that Pink is heading down a perilous course. But it's important to remember that a strong reader base has always existed. Working Woman and Ms. "accomplished their goals, but their ideological spin stopped resonating, so they became irrelevant," says circulation consultant Robert Cohn, who has worked with Pink.

TIMING IS EVERYTHING. Changing demographics and a radical transformation in the workplace may make the difference for Pink. Today, women continue to grab a larger piece of the management pie, with an estimated 21 million now holding executive-level jobs. And the generation of women entering executive offices is bolder. Indeed, among married couples in America, some 23% of the wives are bringing home more money than their male counterparts, according to Martha Barletta, author of Marketing to Women: How to Understand, Reach, and Increase Your Share of the Largest Market Segment.

Many women are "opting up" in their careers rather than "opting out" -- arranging their work schedules around motherhood, instead of abandoning them completely (see BW Online, 5/4/05, "Working Moms Tear Down Office Walls"). "The timing is just right for the magazine to serve a niche that hasn't been serviced," says Chip Smith, vice-president for client services at Kable Distribution Services, which distributes more than 650 magazines, from Billboard to Wedding Gowns, to 130,000 retail outlets across America, including Barnes & Noble (BKS).

Pink's founders aren't oblivious to the pitfalls of starting a magazine all on their own. Good has experience, having launched Atlanta Woman, named 2004's Best Magazine of the Year by the Magazine Association of the Southeast. Her partner, publisher Genevieve Bos, served as publisher of Business to Business, a business magazine in Georgia.

BIG-CITY FOCUS. In fact, both Good and Bos are keenly aware that they're launching their latest venture without the backing of a giant publication house. Lacking deep pockets, they've faced scrutiny at every turn. "We look closely at the credit of a startup, along with how sound their mission and objectives are," says Philip Drumheller, CEO of Burlington (Vt.)-based Lane Press, which prints more than 300 magazines and will also print Pink.

With a small staff and a budget to match, not to mention an increasingly crowded newsstand, Good and Bos are hoping to outmaneuver the competition through leveraging resources and marketing cleverly. When research showed that 85% of professional women live in the nation's top 27 markets, the founders decided that they didn't need to establish a huge presence in every city in America. Instead, they chose to go after lobbies of office buildings, the checkout aisles of gourmet grocers, and airports in key markets.

They struck a deal with CNN's Airport Network to feature the content from Pink in segments that will run 35 times a week, encouraging viewers to check out the magazine and its Web site. The network has exposure to more than 260 million fliers each year, 43% of whom are women.

CORPORATE PARTNERS. While the magazine will have national distribution, the founders understand that Pink might not garner the best displays at newsstands and bookstores (see BW Online, 5/31/05, "The World of SchoolSports"). So, they partnered with such groups as the Business Women's Network to distribute copies to members. Delta Airlines (DAL) has agreed to display the magazine at its executive clubs in airports, and corporations like Georgia-Pacific (GP) have signed on to sponsor events and advertise in its pages.

"We believe in the magazine's mission, and we would like to reach the readers," says Sheila Weidman, vice-president for corporate communications and marketing at Georgia-Pacific, the maker of Quilted Northern tissue and Brawny paper towels.

Pink also opened up discussions with KPMG, which has been trying to figure out ways to reduce turnover among women. The firm notices that, despite the hiring of equal numbers of women and men right out of college, women thin out in the higher echelons. KPMG, Axa Financial (AXA), and Hyperion have decided to support Pink by offering their executives as sounding boards for ideas and giving their employees discounts on the magazine.

The founders worked with Sam's Club, the wholesale division of Wal-Mart (WMT), to reach its 5 million members who are female small-business owners via its newsletter, which will carry synopses of Pink articles about women entrepreneurs and offer special prices to members. "When you don't have deep pockets, you have to be nimble and smart about distribution strategies," says consultant Cohn.

"MULTIPLE TOOLS." Despite all these steps, Pink already has a lot of competition. With successful female-targeted media, like (IVIL) and the Oxygen TV network in existence, why would women pay $3.95 for a copy of Pink, when so much similar information is available for free?

According to Good, the pages of her magazine will give more, allowing the time-constrained female executive to connect with a network of others in her situation via stories of other successful women. "Women wear multiple hats at all times and at the highest levels may conduct multimillion-dollar deals, and right the next moment pick up the phone to lead a Boy Scout function," Good says. "Our magazine will capture the tools of how such women do it all." Pink will also start holding events that feature influential women business leaders.

Good and Bos have been nothing if not thorough while building their dream. Now they'll have to wait and see if the masses come.

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