MEDIA: Cosmopolitan: it’s more than just sex and the city

Sex is still on top at Cosmopolitan magazine, but as Claire Atkinson reports, its new crew of editors is open to other topics relevant to young working women.

Sex is still on top at Cosmopolitan magazine, but as Claire Atkinson reports, its new crew of editors is open to other topics relevant to young working women.

Sex is still on top at Cosmopolitan magazine, but as Claire

Atkinson reports, its new crew of editors is open to other topics

relevant to young working women.

Take a look at Cosmopolitan’s front cover this month. It features a

bombshell in a skin-tight bustier and trousers that barely cover her

crotch. If that doesn’t prompt a double take, then try scanning the

cover lines.

Who could resist picking up a magazine with tasters such as ’The Kama

Sutra 2: 12 naughty new sex positions, the dragon is our favorite’ or

’How to make a man yours forever - or as long as you want him.’ Sex is

what put Cosmopolitan and its former editor of 32 years, Helen Gurley

Brown, on the map. Who would have thought those provocative phrases were

first penned by her husband David Brown?

Deputy editor Janet Siroto says there is so much more under the cover:

’Sex, that is the stereotype of the magazine. There are 300 pages and

yes there is sex, but that is not the whole story. The balance is

clearer now.’

The current editor-in-chief, Kate White - appointed a year ago - came

over from Redbook, and is only the third editor in the history of the

magazine. Gurley Brown gave up the editor’s chair in 1997 only to hand

it to Bonnie Fuller, who quit soon after to edit Conde Nast-owned rival


White has tried to add a greater range of material and has wasted no

time jumping from a thirtysomething to a twentysomething mind-set. She

told CNN’s media show Biz Buzz last year: ’I feel like a part of me has

been unleashed because I’ve always had a sort of wild side that I’ve

kept down.’ She continues, ’One of the things I’d love to add is a

little bit more news because we haven’t done that. A little bit more

journalism, things that really pertain to our readers’ lives.’

To that end, this month Cosmopolitan appointed former freelancer Ruth

Davis to the newly created position of news editor. Davis will be

responsible for bringing in investigative pieces, first person horror

stories and harder news material.

White has also upped the fashion coverage. Jerry Seinfeld’s

ex-girlfriend Shoshanna Lonstein is a contributing editor and helps keep

Cosmopolitan current with the hottest trends. Lonstein, who has her own

lingerie line, is the magazine’s ’girl about town’ and lives up to the

title’s ’fun, fearless, female’ slogan. Siroto says there is likely to

be more celebrity-oriented material in the coming months and she’s busy

developing additional lifestyle and interiors coverage.

Cosmopolitan also gains a new section in October. ’It features fun stuff

to do or wear,’ says Siroto. ’We are looking for things like fantastic

reference books you can throw in your bag or stylish gimmicky


(Associate editor) Rosie Amodio looks after off-beat stuff, like the

coolest pillow for your couch or the latest new dinner party games.’

Slowly but surely, White is re-orienting the ship, with the help of a

few lunchtime suggestions from Gurley Brown, who now oversees the

international editions. Alison Mitchell, vice president at New

York-based lifestyle PR Allyson Harrison Shriftman, sees the difference:

’I think the focus has changed. They seem to be doing more fashion. I

worked closely with (fashion director) Elaine Farley and she is

extraordinarily creative and very accessible.’

The office is just how you’d imagine it. Siroto says her desk has a

vodka cartoon on it, senior editor Elizabeth Goodman wades through

sample pain relievers while associate editor Esther Crain has staff

testing a range of low-fat ice creams.

As with all monthlies, the team is now concentrating efforts on a bumper

Christmas issue packed full of products and gift ideas. PR pro Mitchell

is thrilled that she got a December issue placement for a pair of Jimmy

Choo stilettos costing one million dollars. There is still time to slide

a few late suggestions in, says Siroto, who’s already thinking of ideas

for the January/February issues.

Cosmopolitan’s pages are packed with novelties for the 18-34 year old

target audience. Cosmo Calendar lists the latest movie, music and

make-up releases while Why Don’t You is a suggestion section which

recommends ideas from books - like ’skip wearing a bra,’ from Phillip

Bloch, author of Elements of Style. Calendar is run by associate editor

Laura Gilbert, who also takes suggestions for new web sites.

Siroto says that most editors complain about clogged e-mail systems and

advises PR pros to pick up the phone or send a fax. She also advises

anyone pitching baby products to try somewhere else. ’Yes, lots of our

readers are parents, but it’s not the mind-set,’ says the former Redbook

editor, who is still receiving Pampers from some PR pros.

Executives based outside New York or Los Angeles are going to have a

hard time pitching regional stories. Siroto says they’re unlikely to be

interested in a new hotel in Chicago, but would pick up on the latest

new spa in Los Angeles where the stars hang out.

So just how is Cosmopolitan different from its rivals? Mitchell

explains: ’Glamour is younger, Marie-Claire is for women who are a bit

older but Cosmopolitan attracts a wide interest group. I think it is an

intelligent read.’

White’s stewardship has had a positive affect on the bottom line as


Last week publisher Hearst Magazines announced the title had broken the

two million mark on the newsstand for the first time since 1993.

Newsstand sales reflect the pulling power of the cover from month to

month. In addition, total circulation reached 2,878,989 for the six

months ended June 1999, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulation

(ABC) - an 11.5% increase compared with the same period last year. It

seems girls just can’t get enough these days.



Hearst Magazines

224 West 57th Street

New York, NY 10019

Tel: (212) 649 3570

Fax: (212) 956 3268


Editor-in-chief: Kate White

Executive editor: Ellen Klunes

Deputy editor: Carol Brietzke (sex, relationships, health, self help,

careers and astrology)

Deputy editor: Janet Siroto (dating column, living, home design)

Entertainment editor: Jennifer Kasle (celebrities)

Fashion director: Elaine Farley

News editor: Ruth Davis Associate editor: Rosie Amodio (new


Senior editor: Elizabeth Goodman Artis (health and nutrition)

Senior articles editor: John Searles (books).

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