As Philadelphia magazine nears its 100th birthday, its reputation
keeps growing thanks to a cornucopia of editorial topics, ranging from
local heroes to Playboy Playmates. James Burnett reports.
In the weeks after it went into print last summer, a link to a
5,000-word story by Philadelphia magazine senior writer Benjamin Wallace
began popping up in the in-boxes of Wall Street-types in New York City.
As it was forwarded from firm to firm, "The Prodigy and the Playmate" -
which chronicled the exploits of a 23-year-old financial whiz who used
his stock-picking prowess to collect $60 million in investments,
only to blow most of it on wooing away one of Hugh Hefner's girlfriends
- became a favorite topic of water-cooler chatter, enjoying a
word-of-mouth PR boost on par with the hype that turned Divine Secrets
of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood into a late-blooming best seller.
By the time the Wallace story buzz had abated, the piece had generated a
lead item - complete with denials from Hef himself - in the New York
Post's Page Six. It was the sort of run not often enjoyed by an article
in a regional publication. But then again, Philadelphia, a title that
has helped to shape the genre itself, is no ordinary city magazine.
"There's a very rich tradition here," says editor Loren Feldman. "The
magazine has been a regional publication that has been looked to around
the country for doing exceptional work."
In its 99-year history, Philadelphia has taken home six trophies from
the American Society of Magazine Editors' annual awards ceremony,
regularly trumping national titles to win the honors, the publishing
industry's equivalent of the Oscars. A reputation for editorial
excellence has established the magazine's features and columns as a
must-read for the city's elite.
It is also what makes a mention in the title's regular service packages
- such as the annual "Best of Philly" rankings that run each August - a
valuable endorsement for businesses in its coverage area, which
stretches through parts of Maryland and northern Delaware, swings east
to southern New Jersey, and goes past the well-heeled Main Line suburbs
into the commuter communities that dot Pennsylvania's Amish Country.
Philadelphia's many special packages often represent the best
opportunities for PR pros to place their clients in the magazine - a
welcome fact, considering that its 139,000 circulation is comprised of
readers with an average income topping $100,000 a year. Just how
open a list will be to pitches, though, depends on its focus.
For example, when Philadelphia produced its November 1999 and 2000 cover
stories on the city's most powerful people, the editors chose their
final roster from a nominee pool solicited directly from the area's
But when the magazine switched to a roundup of the 76 smartest
Philadelphians last year, area PR strategists were handed a better
chance to score a slot for one of their clients.
"We do our very best to know absolutely everything that's going on
around town," says Feldman. "But we'll also take a good idea wherever it
comes from - even if it's someone trying to sell us something. The smart
list was a good example of that. We did our best to contact everybody we
could think of, and then checked out the suggestions that sounded most
Philadelphia is yet to decide whether to repeat the IQ feature this
But if it does, the editors will likely be more intrigued by the bio of
an ascendant scientist than they will be by one on his or her CEO. And
word about that behind-the-scenes genius should come in well in advance
to accommodate the magazine's two-month lead time.
Other Philadelphia lists that provide solid targets for smart PR people
include the magazine's annual restaurant issue each January, as well as
the fashion and travel packages that appear each spring and fall.
Announcements about new hotels or weekend destinations, in particular,
will find a receptive ear in senior editor Amy Donahue, who coordinates
travel coverage; a recently launched column called "The Getaway" means
that fresh vacation recommendations are needed year-round.
PR pros whose accounts don't run toward those industries should not
despair, as their clients may still be judged to merit ink in "The
File," a grab-bag collection of short articles that kicks off each
issue. And staff writer Richard Rys, who edits the section with senior
editor Duane Swierczynski, says that even publicists who operate far
outside the mid-Atlantic states might occasionally have cause to contact
him. "We're always looking to touch base with people who grew up in this
area and have gone onto national prominence," explains Rys, who handles
the questioning in the new issue-ending "Exit Interview" that debuted
Address: 1818 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103
Tel/Fax: (215) 564-7700/656-3502
Editor: Loren Feldman
Senior Editors: Amy Donohue, Duane Swierczynski, Sandy Hingston, Noel
Weyrich, Vicki Glembocki
Managing Editor: Sarah Jordan
Senior Writers: Carol Saline, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, Benjamin Wallace
Lifestyle Editor: Meg Cohen Ragas
Staff Writers: Roxanne Patel, Lawrence Goodman, Richard Rys