In 1996, when publishers Joshua Goodhart and Adam Capes asked an Atlanta focus group its opinion of Jezebel magazine, the response was overwhelming: They loved it. They read every issue. Not bad, considering that Jezebel didn't even exist yet. "It sounded like something they already liked having in their lives," says Goodhart. He and Capes took the hint, and the duo's lifestyle magazine for hip young Atlantans is as popular as the focus group suggested it would be.
Capes, 28, and Goodhart, 27, caught the publishing bug early. The Cornell University roommates found that the campus newspaper ignored the local entertainment scene. So in 1993 they started their own alternative paper, The Globe. The first issue made $500. By graduation, The Globe was making upwards of $100,000 a year. After college, the two midwesterners sold The Globe and moved to Atlanta, hoping it would boom after the Olympics. There the city's dominant glossy, Atlanta, catered to an older crowd. With their Globe earnings and "several hundred thousand dollars" from a pharmaceutical exec turned angel investor, they launched Jezebel in October, 1996. Biblical references aside, Capes and Goodhart thought the name sounded both provocative and Southern.
Splitting editorial and business duties, they started giving away 30,000 copies of a 64-page magazine in trendy clubs and restaurants. Jezebel now passes out 50,000 copies with 244 pages a month. Part-time Atlantan Elton John and Georgia native Kim Basinger have appeared on the cover. "Jezebel was the first magazine that gave single professionals some insight into Atlanta," says Scott Strumlauf, a local restaurateur and real estate developer.
Capes and Goodhart say Jezebel, with 20 employees, has made money since 1998 and will have revenues of about $2 million in 2000. The duo insist they're still just "regular guys." But if Jezebel gets any hotter, the publishers may soon be gracing magazine covers themselves.