Saturday, October 25, 2008

Owen Lipstein: fitness of body, mind and magazine

Folio: The Magazine for Magazine Management, March, 1989 by Margaret Hunter

Like American Health, Hippocrates is a precocious youngster that won a National Magazine Award for Excellence in its first year. Lipstein notes that American Health continues to "dominate" its category, and Hippocrates' circulation at 416,000 is less than half of American Health's at 1.2 million.

Although Time's acquisition gives Hippocrates tremendous expansion capital, Lipstein maintains it helps reestablish the value of American Health. "If Time was willing to pay that much for a magazine with half our circulation, it makes us look pretty good."

Chris Whittle, however, is another matter. The Knoxville-based publisher's Special Reports, a package of six titles distributed to doctors' waiting rooms free if the physician agrees to limit other subscriptions, enrages Lipstein. It's not the competition for advertisers that bugs him, he says; it's the idea of American Health being thrown out of a doctor's office. The magazine's 100,000-plus waiting room copies receive high pass-along readership and are important to the Personal Best Network's overall numbers. Lipstein hasn't withdrawn the lawsuit threat he made months ago over Whittle's exclusivity program, but he's not as vocal as he has been. It's time to put up or shut up, he admits.

Competition with Whittle has even become a personal matter. More than a half-dozen American Health employees have left for the higher-paying Whittle Communications. Chris Whittle is rumored to be making piles of money, and his wall media in 1,500 health clubs outpaces Lipstein's 1,200. Perhaps worst of all, Whitlle has been stealing the limelight as the industry's brash young maverick, a reputation coveted by both publishers, according to sources.

Neither the challenges ahead nor the growing diversity of his titles appear to worry Lipstein. "I don't know if it has to make sense to anyone else but me," he says. "The magazines round out the four corners of my life: mind, body, spirit, style."

American Health, for example, grew out of his master's thesis, which discussed the opposing forces in the friendship of the cerebral Aldous Huxley and the gutsy D. H. Lawrence. The theme was picked up in the magazine's tag line, "Fitness of Body and Mind." Mother Earth News, he maintains, tied in his country home in Catskill, New York, and his desire, "like a lot of people, to be able to wield a wrench." The Psychology Today acquisition coincided with a failed romance, and Smart appealed to the aging student of literature who listens to Shakespeare tapes while jogging.

Those who know him say Lipstein is a fighter--boxing lessons, a fascination with Rambo movies and an admiration of Muhammed Ali give some indication. A column he wrote in a February 1988 American Health supplement is self-revealing: "In my judgment, males are incorrigible showoffs. We fight, start wars, start companies or take them over because we seek to impress, an impulse designed both to attract women and intimidate other men."

There's an intelligence under Lipstein's adolescent image that competitors shouldn't underestimate, say sources. "He's like a bad teenager, the one who boasts the most, drinks the most, goes out with the sleazy good-looking women, and still makes straight As," says a former employee, who now works for Whittle.

COPYRIGHT 1989 Copyright by Media Central Inc., A PRIMEDIA Company. All rights reserved.
COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning


Published: June 15, 1985

If it involves moving a muscle, there is probably a magazine for it.

Five years ago, there were only a handful of health and fitness publications. Today, a weightlifter might have trouble lifting them all at once.

''There's been a grass-roots revolution in health and fitness, and the information is following that,'' said Owen Lipstein, publisher of American Health, a monthly magazine founded three and a half years ago. ''There's a lot of activity in the field, a lot of start-ups.''

The titles range from health-oriented magazines, such as American Health; Prevention, and Health, which offer advice on everything from nutrition to muscle tone, to those with a more general readership, such as Self, which now carry more features on fitness.

But the most visible development has been the introduction of dozens of small publications aimed at readers with specific exercise interests. For women, in particular, there sometimes seems to be more magazines on newsstands designed to keep them trim than there are aerobics classes in Manhattan.

View Full NYT Article HERE

Circulation Rate Base Up at American Health

ADVERTISING; Circulation Rate Base Up at American Health

Published: September 14, 1983

American Health Magazine, which made its debut in March 1981 with Owen J. Lipstein as publisher and T. George Harris as editor, will go into the black on an issue-by-issue basis with the November/December issue now on the presses.

And that is not the end of the good news. With the March/April issue, it will increase its circulation rate base by 100,000, to 650,000, and plans another increase of at least the same size next July.

With the May issue, the frequency of publication will be increased to ten a year from six.


Published: December 14, 1983

Nobody shirks at American Health magazine.

The publisher, who admits to being slightly out of shape, volunteered for a humiliating match with the top-ranked American squash player. The executive editor spent a month of leg lifts and aerobics at a Vermont body conditioning spa, trimming 16 pounds from her chubby frame. The chief of research did some first-person research in a 10-kilometer race, and shaved two minutes off her best time.

It is all good copy for American Health, the self-proclaimed magazine about ''fitness of body and mind.'' American Health will celebrate its second birthday next March and, while the staff may number more enthusiasts than natural athletes, there is nothing unfit about their product.

In a period when other more lavishly financed magazines - Time's TV-Cable Week, Reader's Digest's Families - have closed down, American Health is one of the sturdiest newcomers to the difficult and competitive world of magazine publishing. Indeed, it is one of the rare survivors; 9 out of 10 new magazines fail within 18 months, according to the Magazine Publishers Association. For a specialty magazine, American Health is growing nicely. At the end of September, it sold 465,000 copies - of which less than one-sixth were newsstand sales, at $2 apiece. The demographics are good; the average reader's age is 36 and, while 70 percent are female, the ratio is expected to become less lopsided in the future. Advertising revenues for the first nine months totaled $1.5 million, or 202 pages.

What's more, according to Owen Lipstein, the 32-year-old publisher and defeated squash player, the figures are better than they look. Half of the magazine's first-year subscribers renewed, an exceptionally high ratio. For the March-April 1984 issue, Mr. Lipstein said, the guaranteed circulation will be 650,000. It will go monthly in May, he said, and be solidly in the black in 1985.

'A Very Hot Book'

''The circulation is growing so fast that it's delivered better than the numbers,'' said Peter Spengler, vice president of advertising services at the Bristol-Myers Company, which this year bought 18 pages of ads. American Health ''is a very hot book,'' he said.

According to Mr. Spengler, American Health occupies a niche somewhere between Prevention, the 33- year-old Rodale Press monthly, and Self, the four-year-old Conde Nast magazine that industry wits have dubbed ''Vogue with sneakers.'' And with rates well below those mass-circulation magazines, it has attracted such blue-chip advertisers as Procter & Gamble, Revlon, General Foods and Johnson & Johnson, in addition to Bristol-Myers.

Editorially, American Health is essentially a news magazine whose focus is the mind and body, according to its editor, T George Harris. Mr. Harris, 59, the founding editor of Psychology Today, said that it was almost accidental that much of the information - about nutrition, hunger, stress - has proved to be of service to readers.

''We've been able to take the exotic frontier material in medicine and behavior, and find it applies to what people do,'' he said in an interview last week.

Features for Sensitive Soles

Hence, the magazine has boasted such features as ''The Whole Foot Catalogue,'' with massages and other treatment for sensitive soles; ''Ah, Oolong, So Long To Cavities,'' a report that tea prevents tooth decay, and ''Staying Fluid,'' about ways to avoid dehydration. There are departments devoted to life style, nutrition and teeth. And to back up its 16 editorial employees, American Health has a board of M.D.'s, Ph.D's and R.N.'s.

''We're an owner's manual for the body,'' Mr. Lipstein said. ''This is the magazine for the baby-boom generation,'' he added. ''It reflects where the baby-boom generation, after the politics of the 1960's and 1970's, has ended up putting its energies.''

It was in February 1981 that Mr. Lipstein - who, as publisher of Science '81, felt science books were ''too gee-whiz'' - first approached Mr. Harris - who, after his years at Psychology Today, felt that the area below the neck was being neglected - with what he calls ''a screamingly obvious idea.''

With Mr. Harris's editorial clout behind the venture, the rest fell into place with surprising ease. Venture capital for new magazines has been scarce, but Oppenheimer & Company, the investment bank, raised $5 million for American Health, and a second $5 million last summer. Publishers such as Time Inc. and Conde Nast Publications Inc. have pumped more than $10 million into their new magazines, but the sum was unusually large for entrepreneurs new to publishing, according to William Gorog, president of the Magazine Publishers Association.

To find readers, the American Health team culled the mailing lists of Psychology Today, Savvy, Runners World and other ''upscale, health-and-life style books,'' Mr. Lipstein said. They hired Bill Jayme, the acknowledged master of direct-mail solicitations, to draft its mailing: a letter offering ''New vim! New vigor! New vitality!'' in a shiny envelope with a photograph of juicy orange slices on one side, a laboratory on the other.

Gamble Paid Off

''We dropped eight million pieces of mail, nearly half our financing,'' Mr. Lipstein recalled. But the gamble paid off handsomely, and the magazine began in March 1982 with 300,000 subscribers.

The way Mr. Lipstein sees it, the magazine's continued growth is all but inevitable. ''There's a social and physical revolution,'' he said. ''The interest in health and fitness is not a fad.'' Although he declined to project circulations of one million or more, he said, ''My gut tells me it's a big magazine.''

The view is apparently shared. Mr. Lipstein said that he has turned down four bids for the magazine.

American Health, meanwhile, is trying to become bigger. It advertises on Hearst-ABC's Cable Health Network, with which for a time it had a barter arrangement - printing the service's program guide in return for free commercial time. It periodically surveys its readers by telephone, asking them what they liked, and what did not like, about an issue. As a result, nutrition has become the largest section of each issue, overtaking fitness and medical news.

And like other magazines, it constantly invites new subscribers with mailings and inserts. Its current bid for gift subscriptions, urging readers to make it ''a healthy New Year for your friends,'' features an unfamiliar Santa Claus - paunchless, and in running shoes.

Science Magazines Taking Off

Published: April 2, 1981

SOCIAL changes frequently help create new magazine categories. The movement of women into the work force has certainly brought with it a string of new titles of service magazines intended to help those women cope, and, of course, make money for the publishers. The running craze has brought with it a proliferation of publications on the subject, and video and high technology have combined to cause a flood of trade and consumer magazines on every aspect of video and cable television.

Similarly, high technology along with a more educated public, enhanced by heightened interest in science brought on by the space program, has resulted in a boom in science publications.

''We recognized that there was a tremendous gap in the marketplace,'' said Beverly Wardell, director of advertising sales of Omni. ''People are really hungry for this kind of information that they previously had to get from occasional articles in newsmagazines.'' Two years ago, Omni, the younger sister of Penthouse, made one of the most succesful debuts in the history of the magazine business. It is one-third fact, one-third fiction and one-third fantasy.

Then came Science 80, from the American Society for the Advancement of Science, and Discover, from Time Inc. Then Hearst Magazines, after two years of testing, completely revamped its 44-year-old digest size Science Digest into a handsome, standard-size slick publication.

And all of these $2-per-copy magazines appear to be doing well, with lots of room for growth. ''Can the marketplace sustain them?'' Reginald K. Brack Jr., publisher of Discover, asked rhetoriclly. ''The interest is very definitely there. We assume that there are about 11 million households that are potential readers, and all of the science magazines only have a total circulation of 1.7 million. That's only 16 percent penetration, so there is a lot of room for growth.''

And they will indeed continue to grow, according to Charles Mandel, the original ad director of Omni, who is now publisher of Science Digest. ''There's such an explosion of real information,'' he said, ''and no great duplication in the material.''

These magazines have a lot going for them as far as advertisers are concerned. The quality of their audiences is really first rate in terms of age, income and education.

Omni's best categories, consumer electronics (stereos, etc.,) and liquor, reflect this. Science 81 and Discover have automotive, both domestic and foreign, as their largest category, while at Science Digest it's a tie between automotive and alcoholic beverages.

While corporate advertising is a factor in all four of the publications, it is the No.1 category at Scientific American, a 136-year-old magazine that is for a much more scientifically oriented reader than the others and therefore caters to more of the so-called thought-leader types that corporate advertisers fancy.

The major thing it has in common with the other magazines is that it is listed with them under the science category in the Standard Rate and Data directory.

''They like to be with us for the quality image,'' said C. John Kirby, ad director of Scientific American, who notes that the flood of new publications ''has had no impact that we are aware of.''

Science 81 began as a bimonthly and went to 10 a year last November. Ultimately it will go to 12 a year. Its management has a philosophy about science coverage that differs from the rest. It runs features, because, as Owen J. Lipstein, general manager, notes, ''Science is a process, not an event.''

Because the magazine is published by a nonprofit institution, it gets a break on postal rates. Its circulation, therefore, has been largely by subscription. Subscription can be a way of keeping the demographics of the readership high since the magazine can be selective about who is solicited.

The magazine, whose circulation rate base went to 600,000 with the April issue, will, however, test single-copy sales this month and will go to a rate base of 675,000 with the July issue.

Although competitors charge that, because of the nonprofit status, the magazine can offer lower ad rates, Mr. Lipstein, who does not agree, said, ''We have lower ad rates because it makes good marketing sense.''

Science 81 will carry about 185 pages of advertising in the five issues during the first six months, averaging 37 pages an issue, up from last year's average of 32 pages.

Thanks partially to the increase in publishing frequency, the magazine showed a strong increase in ad revenues, going from $390,283, according to Publishers Information Bureau standards, in the first six months of 1980 to $1.9 million in the first six of this year. according to the Publishers Information Bureau.

Omni, being out of the Penthouse stable, does, of course, have a large single-copy sale. Of its actual average audited circulation of 858,000 in the second half of last year, single copy sales totaled 650,885. Miss Wardell said, ''We'll be over a million in total circulation in 12 to 15 months.''

For the first half of the year, it will be up 4 percent in ad pages, to 308, and up 16.6 percent in revenues, to $4.4 million, by P.I.B. standards.

Since making its bow last October, Time's Discover went from a circulation guarantee of 400,000 to 600,000. In its first six months, it carried 207 pages of advertising, with P.I.B. revenues of $2.3 million.

Science Digest, which had a circulation of less than 150,000 as a digest size, is already up to 450,000, with single-copy sales averaging about 300,000. Mr. Mandel estimates that it will carry 176 pages of advertising in five issues during the first six months. He did not have P.I.B. revenue estimates.

Merger Near for Smart

Published: September 3, 1990

LEAD: The publisher of Smart magazine said last week that he was close to reaching a final agreement to merge his men's publication with a men's magazine that is being readied for introduction next year. The publisher, Owen Lipstein, said he had agreed to buy Men magazine and would incorporate some of the ideas being considered for Men into Smart.