When the young, sax-playing Bill Clinton trounced George Bush in
the 1992 US presidential election, it seemed that a new era of politics
as celebrity had arrived in America. After all, if a candidate who
appeared on MTV discussing his underwear could get to the White House,
something was definitely up.
The resultant belief in the importance of pop culture to politics
provided the basis for George magazine, named after George Washington,
which launched with much media fanfare in 1995. Of course, it could
point to more than a trendy president to illustrate its vision. Its
editor-in-chief was a man who epitomised power as glamour, John F
The ’political lifestyle’ magazine’s initial ad sales broke all
By the end of 1997, the monthly title boasted a circulation of more than
400,000 and a subscription renewal rate of 55 per cent. As a journalist,
it was a thrilling title to work for. But a year is a long time in
political journalism and George’s success had begun to slide prior to
Kennedy’s tragic death last summer. The Clinton impeachment fiasco
punctured the upbeat patriotic mood to which the magazine owed much of
its appeal, and the first half of 1999 saw circulation slipping and ad
sales in a dangerous downward spiral.
However, Kennedy’s death made George the most talked about magazine in
America once again, and the hike in newsstand sales that followed was
too tempting for Kennedy’s former partner, Hachette Filipacchi
The publisher opted to buy out Kennedy’s share of George and keep
publishing without its founder.
A good investment? Kennedy left George with strong demographics. The
readership is 52 per cent women, with an average age of 39 and an
average household income of almost dollars 70,000. This mix is reflected
in the advertising, with Chanel vying with the likes of General Motors.
However, if the magazine is to reach Hachette’s target of 40 ad pages an
issue by May, it must prove it can survive without its former leader’s
Hachette is gambling on this year’s presidential election for a
However, George could struggle to provide definitive election coverage
since its monthly format leaves it at a disadvantage next to weeklies
such as Time.
The greater problem may be that the magazine’s vision of politics as
pop-culture is no longer unique. Since Jay Leno made the president’s sex
life a topic for late-night stand-up and Warren Beatty started talking
about a presidential bid, everyone knows that politics and entertainment
are now the same. Whether they like it or not is a different matter.
George fact file
Publisher Hachette Filipacchi Magazines
Cover price dollars 2.95
Ad rate for full page dollars 36,220
Edited by Anna Griffiths Tel: 0181-267 4892 E-mail: