Tuesday, April 21, 2009

24/7 Wall Street to Esquire: Drop Dead

Once upon a time -- well, four years ago, to be exact -- I worked with a woman who had previously worked at Esquire magazine. She noted proudly how that title had come back from a near-death experience the previous decade, when it had gotten dangerously thin and was largely ignored. But she pointed to its resurgence in ad pages (and for all I know in readers, too) in recent years.

It's always nice to see a magazine return to the front lines after being written off by all and sundry. And, though I have my qualms about the current Esquire's direction, it remains a powerful and historic magazine brand, and I wish it many decades of continued life.

But I don't think Douglas A. McIntyre agrees. McIntyre writes on 24/7 Wall Street that Esquire is one of 12 major brands that will disappear. He even calls his article "Twelve Major Brands that Will Disappear."

Many of the other brands are not in publishing: Chrysler, Palm, and he goes really out on a limb and lists AIG. But he does include Architectural Digest and Borders. Borders would be a shame to lose.

But Esquire? Frankly, I don't know what Hearst will use to decide its live-or-die choices, but killing a 76-year-old magazine because of a once-in-76-years economic collapse doesn't seem smart. And I don't think Hearst got stinking rich by being stupid. At the very least, wouldn't they sell the brand? Go online-only?

McIntyre notes the magazine's more than 25 percent drop in ad pages early this year, but that's actually not out of line from recent industry-wide numbers. If he's picked up a copy of Esquire's competitors such as GQ or Playboy recently, he's noticed that they're a lot thinner, too. And the "lad magazine" competitors aren't in much better shape, those that are still around. It's called the Great Recession for a reason.

Will Esquire die? Unlikely. Will Douglas McIntyre think of a meatier subject to write about for his next article? Hopefully.

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