OPINION: Stuart Elliott in America

If anyone could possibly still need a wake-up call to remind them

the advertising economy has changed so drastically from only a few

months ago, that alarming alarm is being sounded by the noise made as

the final issues of Mademoiselle magazine arrive on newsstands and in

subscribers' mailboxes.



Mademoiselle, a monthly aimed at women in their late teens and early

twenties, has been a mainstay American title since 1935, when it was

started by the magazine pioneer Betsy Blackwell. She was branded a

heretic because of her belief that fashion and beauty coverage could be

practical rather than ethereal. Worse yet, the critics carped, she had

the nerve to seek a literate female reader, whom she successfully

pursued by publishing fiction from writers such as Sylvia Plath, Truman

Capote, Flannery O'Connor and Joyce Carol Oates.



Mademoiselle has been even more of an industry stalwart because since

1959 it has been owned by Conde Nast Publications, arguably the premier

proprietor of glitzy yet substantive magazines.



Conde Nast's properties run the gamut from A (Allure and Architectural

Digest) to V (Vanity Fair and Vogue), with Mademoiselle nestled snugly

in the Ms (for middle); circulation most recently reached 1.15

million.



So seemingly secure was Mademoiselle's place in the magazine firmament

that for years it has been known by a jaunty nickname, Millie, even

before the spate of publications named for their editors such as Jane

(Pratt), Oprah (Winfrey) and Rosie (O'Donnell).



How many other magazines can make that claim? After all, nobody calls

The Economist "Echo" or Newsweek "Newsy".



So it was a real blow to the industry, underscoring the severity of the

downturn in business since 11 September, when Conde Nast unexpectedly

announced its decision to close Mademoiselle, effective with the

November issue. Steven T Florio, the president and chief executive

officer, attributed the abrupt folding to "current economic conditions",

which made the magazine "no longer viable".



To be sure, many American magazines have gone to that great newsstand in

the sky since the dotcom boom went bust and the national economy

followed.



Some of the dear departed include Brill's Content, Expedia Travels,

Family PC, George, Individual Investor, Lingua Franca, The Industry

Standard, Jump, Maximum Golf, The Sciences and Walking and Working

Woman.



But it is no exaggeration to say that if you added up the number of

years all those titles existed, that sum might not equal the 66 years

that Mademoiselle has been enlightening its readers.



Yes, there have been signs for some time that Mademoiselle was

struggling.



There were frequent, significant shifts in tone and approach under a

parade of editors, most recently a British import, Mandi Norwood.

Advertising pages were also declining this year at a rate higher than

the losses suffered by the industry overall.



Competition was intensifying from both outside Conde Nast (Cosmopolitan

and Marie Claire) and inside (Jane and Lucky). And trouble in attracting

new readers led to subscription offers such as two years for one and

deals as low as 67 cents a copy, compared with a cover price of $2.99.



Still, it would be silly not to mourn Millie. Every magazine that closes

is a loss.



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