MEDIA: Profile - Philly stakes claim on the hearts and minds of thecity's elite

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

this month.



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

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