From: Gregory Karp, The Morning Call
Published September 5, 2005 12:00 AM

Organic Style Magazine To Cease Publication

Organic Style, the women's lifestyle magazine published by Rodale of Emmaus, will cease publication with its October issue.

The news was announced by memo to employees late in the workday Thursday. The magazine, called "OS" internally, employed 38, all based in New York City. Some will be relocated within Rodale. The rest will be out of work and receive severance packages.

Organic Style launched in September 2001 and was published 10 times a year. It was a project envisioned and spearheaded by Rodale Vice Chairwoman Maria Rodale, who just before its launch revamped the entire Rodale company by shaking up management and establishing new priorities.

Over its four-year life, Organic Style was growing in circulation and attracting more advertising, according to industry reports. However, the magazine failed to hit its financial targets, established by Maria Rodale and Chief Executive Officer Steven Murphy.

"Advertiser support and consumer interest were strong, but, ultimately, the title did not meet the internal benchmarks we'd originally established for it," Murphy said in a prepared statement.

Although advertising and circulation figures were rising, more telling data are found in newsstand sales, or what the industry calls single-copy sales. Organic Style was selling about 56,000 single copies, compared with 75,000 last year.

Meanwhile, competing magazine Real Simple is selling more than 424,000 single copies.

"They launched into a tough competitive set, and they went through an incredible series of changes," Jon Fine, media columnist with BusinessWeek magazine said, alluding to the numerous editor changes at Organic Style. "Given all that, it's hard to gain traction."

And it's a difficult industry now for many magazines, except celebrity-focused ones, he said.

"Unfortunately, when you put the word 'organic' in the title of something, large mainstream advertisers assume it's about granola and Birkenstocks, whether it is or not," Fine said. "I'm not saying that's right. I'm saying that's what their perception is."

Rodale spokeswoman Robin Shallow said mainstream advertisers did balk at first, but the magazine was able to overcome that about two years ago and secure such national advertisers as Chrysler and Keds.

"The last two years, the doors opened wide, and that wall came down," she said.

Still, the magazine apparently was unable to build up the bottom line enough to keep it afloat. Rodale, a privately held, family-owned company, would not release specific information on how profitable -- or unprofitable -- the magazine was.

Soon after the magazine launched, Maria Rodale said it would not have a longer leash for success simply because she founded it. It would have to hit its numbers, she said. She made good on that pledge Thursday.

Organic Style targeted women 18 to 34 years old, attempting to deliver information about an organic lifestyle in a stylish and contemporary way. But Rodale publishes a variety of books and magazines that touch on the subject of organic lifestyles, including Prevention and Organic Gardening magazine.

So, Rodale will pursue the topic of organics through those publications, Maria Rodale said in a statement. "As the 'organics' category has been embraced by a broader audience with the movement shifting into the mainstream, we've decided to expand our unique organics coverage across our other magazines and books."

Organic Style was important to Maria Rodale, heir to take over as chairwoman of the company. She fired two editors before the first issue hit newsstands. Her personal mission to make organic "hip, not hippie" played out on National Public Radio, "The Oprah Winfrey Show" and newspapers coast to coast.

Even if it's true that organics became more popular, Organic Style didn't. In the end, it wasn't a viable, long-term business that could succeed, Rodale officials conceded.

But one business failure doesn't obscure some great successes Rodale has had in recent years. It will continue to publish eight consumer magazines, including hit titles Men's Health and Prevention. Rodale's best-selling books include "The South Beach Diet" and "The Abs Diet."

Organic Style will stop publishing the same month Rodale will publish the book "Martha's Rules," a guide for starting businesses by Martha Stewart.

Ironically, Organic Style earlier this year lost its publisher, Sally Preston, to Martha Stewart Living magazine, where she is publisher.

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Source: Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

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