MEDIA: Esquire: for the life you know you want to live

Esquire's controversial 'Exit Interview' with President Clinton scored it some fantastic PR, and editor David Granger is determined to continue to make it a 'must read' for intelligent men, writes Doug Quenqua

Esquire's controversial 'Exit Interview' with President Clinton scored it some fantastic PR, and editor David Granger is determined to continue to make it a 'must read' for intelligent men, writes Doug Quenqua

Esquire's controversial 'Exit Interview' with President Clinton scored it some fantastic PR, and editor David Granger is determined to continue to make it a 'must read' for intelligent men, writes Doug Quenqua

David Granger wants to make the world full of better men, and he's going to start by showing them how to fix a toilet. Then he's going to bring them up to date on world affairs and introduce them to the people they need to know. He'll turn them on to important fashions, trends and ideas, even recipes and he's not above showing them the occasional picture of a rain-soaked, half-naked woman, either.

Nonetheless, his publication, Esquire, is no lad mag. You know, the ones that wash up on our shores offering 'Girls of the WB,' gross-out stories and Star Wars trivia. Of late, the magazine has found itself lumped in with the likes of them, and it's not quite a deserved reputation.

Esquire does have its share of scantily clad models and busty celebs, but it also happens to be a time-tested literary and cultural destination.

Granger, the editor-in-chief who defected from competitor Conde Nast-owned GQ three years ago, calls his magazine 'one of the last refuges for intelligent writing and thinking for men.' His pride is evident when he pulls a copy of the premiere issue from his desk. Published in 1933, it boasts the likes of Ernest Hemingway as a contributing writer.

'I think we manage to be more substantial than any of our competitors,' he says, 'but we also connect our readers to their world in a more immediate way.'



Tackling the big issues

He offers a recent example: 'I don't think there's another magazine in the world - let alone a men's magazine - that could gain unprecedented access to the president the way we did.'

Granger is referring to Esquire's December 2000 issue and its controversial 'Exit Interview' with President Clinton. In it, the departing leader candidly reflects on his time in office, and even suggests that Republicans in Congress apologize to America for the impeachment uproar.

When it hit the newsstands in November, the White House press office, including Joe Lockhart and the president himself, cried foul. They said the magazine promised not to publish the interview until after the election.

Granger says they're lying. 'There never was any embargo,' he claims.

'At no point did anyone on his staff ask us to hold the story. I was angry when Joe Lockhart went on CNN and called us liars,' he continues.

'He never even entered into negotiations for this story. And in the end, what he got was one of the first serious, favorable considerations of what his president has done in the last eight years.'

Lockhart's take is decidedly different. 'I can understand why someone who's broken their word would want to make up a story to create some confusion. If there was no deal, then why did he have to pull his reporter off vacation to go out and promote this? I made this same deal with three other magazines, and only Esquire decided to get some cheap publicity by putting their reputation on the line.'

But even honest Joe admits the story was, in itself, a good piece of work. 'The problem is that everything got obscured, but the reporter (Michael Paterniti) did a really nice job,' he says.

When Esquire isn't stirring up political trouble, it serves as a source of high-minded entertainment for its readers - and a practical lifestyle guide. These days, the magazine owes at least as much to designer Gaultier as it does to Hemingway, as its pages are a veritable What's What of things to wear, listen to, or at the very least, want.

Typical readers are successful, educated men in their thirties, and they look to Esquire to tell them what's in and what's out there. Hence a pitch is likely to land on fertile ground - if you know where to go.

At the front of the magazine you'll find Man At His Best, a section that regularly spotlights clothes, restaurants, wines, books and gadgets. The magazine also features monthly sections on golf, movies, TV and books.

All these sections are, at least in theory, open to pitches. But plan in advance - and avoid email appeals.

'Email has become a real problem in the last couple months,' says Granger.

'If I can see that it's a pitch by the subject line, I won't even open it now.'



Know the editors

He says you're better off calling the relevant editor, and doing it several months ahead of time. If, for example, you would want something featured in the annual holiday gift guide in the December issue, you'd better be talking to the magazine by late summer. Fashion PR reps should also be interested in the fall and spring style guides.

Although these might not run as long as a piece in In Style or Vogue during the same season, they are nonetheless substantially larger than a typical issue.

If you count trendy eateries among your clients, the December 2000 issue carries a feature titled, America's Best New Restaurants and is something you'll want to keep on your radar screen. Book publicists should take special note of the annual summer reading roundup, which comes out in July.

Esquire's guaranteed rate base (the circulation figure guaranteed to advertisers) has remained at 650,000 for the past four years. Esquire has been steadily growing its circulation since 1999, but the first half of 2000 has showed some signs of decline.

According to the Audit Bureau of Circulation, total paid numbers fell from 679,814 for the first six months of 1999 to 676,211 for the same period in 2000. However the title has a strong metropolitan draw. Readers are concentrated in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, and make up a full 20% of subscribers.

Granger mostly dislikes cold calls. 'Pitches almost never get anybody on the cover or in a feature,' says Granger. If your client is making news, then the magazine is likely to want him or her in its pages. If not, save your dime.

But for those who have worked with the magazine, feedback is positive.

Patricia Clough, account exec with KB Network News, a NY-based PR firm that represents super-trendy restaurant Lotus, has dealt with Esquire on more than one occasion, both as pitcher and receiver.

'I had a great experience with them. We pitched several writers of theirs to try and get the restaurant in the magazine by the time it opened (in June of 2000), says Clough. She says they were receptive, with one condition: 'They wanted to make certain that they could be one of the first publications in the US to be doing something about the restaurant.'

Granger's hopes for the future of the magazine are centered solely on making it a better read. 'We do good work,' he says. 'When I first got here, people were saying this magazine was dead. It was a moribund entity. We brought it back simply by doing good work, and that's what we're going to continue to concentrate on.'



CONTACT LIST

Esquire, 250 West 55th Street, New York, NY 10019

Tel: (212) 649-4050

Fax: (212) 265-0258

Email: firstinitiallastname@hearst. com

Web: www.esquire.com

Editor-in-chief: David Granger

Executive editor: Mark Warren (Politics)

Assistant editor: Lauren Iannotti (Man at his Best, front of book)

Fashion editor: Michael Kucmeroski

Assistant editor: Christopher Berend (music, film, celebs)

Web editor: Brendan Vaughan

Editorial assistant: Bryan Mealer.



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