Welcome to the latest edition of Ad Age Publisher's Brief, our roundup of news from the world of content producers across digital and print. Got a tip? Send it our way. Joining us late? Here's the previous edition.
All Peckered out: Supermarket tabloid the National Enquirer, as you’ve probably heard by now, is up for sale. Why? Well, here’s your executive summary:
Owner American Media Inc., run by Trump pal David Pecker, was pressured to shop the gossip sheet by hedge fund manager Anthony Melchiorre, who has an 80 percent stake in AMI, according to The Washington Post.
Melchiorre, a source tells the paper, grew “disgusted” with the Enquirer’s approach to “journalism” in the wake of what Amazon CEO (and Washington Post owner) Jeff Bezos in February characterized as an extortion attempt surrounding purloined photos. If you haven’t already read Bezos’s blog post about his run-in with the tabloid, well, now’s a good time. It includes passages like this, from a rather descriptive email written by AMI Chief Content Officer Dylan Howard, as quoted by Bezos:
In addition to the “below the belt selfie — otherwise colloquially known as a ‘d*ck pick’” — The Enquirer obtained a further nine images. These include:
· A naked selfie in a bathroom — while wearing his wedding ring. Mr. Bezos is wearing nothing but a white towel — and the top of his pubic region can be seen.
· A shirtless Mr. Bezos holding his phone in his left hand — while wearing his wedding ring. He’s wearing either tight black cargo pants or shorts — and his semi-erect manhood is penetrating the zipper of said garment.
And so on. Separately and just as notoriously, Pecker, AMI and the Enquirer are ensnared in a Trump-related scandal that’s still under investigation. From last December: “National Enquirer owner admits to ‘catch and kill’ payment to ex-Playmate” (subhead: “AMI told prosecutors it worked with Trump’s campaign to pay for and suppress story of a sexual affair to ‘prevent it from influencing’ US election”), via The Guardian. There's reportedly a safe at AMI headquarters that contains stories about Trump that Pecker & Co. bought the rights to (the “catch” part) and then buried (the “kill” part) to protect him during his presidential candidacy.
Not only is the Enquirer ensnared in scandals that are expensive to defend against, but it’s also not doing so great as a business. Per the Post, it “sold an average of 516,000 copies per issue in 2014, but that number fell to 218,000 in December, according to data compiled by the Alliance for Audited Media.” Back in 1997, The New York Times reported that the Enquirer was selling 2.2 million copies at the newsstand each week.
So who might buy the damn thing? Some suggestions have been bubbling up on Twitter, including:
But the best possible buyer is obviously Jeff Bezos.
But if you're looking for a more realistic/likely take, well, here you go: “Ron Burkle, Billionaire Investor, Is Said to Be in Talks to Buy National Enquirer,” per The New York Times.
Retail run: Just in time for the 123rd Boston Marathon on Monday, Runner’s World is launching an ambitious pop-up Boston headquarters with a retail component. For five days (tomorrow through next Tuesday), the Hearst magazine’s team will take over four floors of a stately townhouse at 179 Newbury Street in the Back Bay neighborhood—it’ll be called the Runner’s World Townhouse, naturally—that’s one block from the finish line.
Brands including Sarah Marie Design and Salomon have partnered with the RW to sell merch on site. And Solomon is treating the pop-up as a chance to do hands-on (feet-on?) market research with hard-core runners: It’ll be showing off recently and not-yet-released pairs of Salomon road shoes that visitors can sign up to evaluate (on treadmills or outside) as officially deputized Runner’s World shoe testers.
Boston Marathon icons including Kathrine Switzer (author of “Marathon Woman”) and Ryan Hall (the fastest American to ever complete the Boston Marathon) will take part in a couple of more than two dozen scheduled panels and activities (including “yoga for runners” sessions). The pop-up will be a profit-driver for the magazine, which has been increasingly leveraging its reputation for no-nonsense expertise and product recommendations in experiential settings.
Masthead watch: Keith Kelly, media columnist for the right-leaning New York Post, takes note of new leadership at what he calls “two left-leaning thought leader publications”: The Nation and The New Republic. At the former...
... Katrina vanden Heuvel announced she will step down as editor-in-chief after 25 years and be replaced by D.D. Guttenplan, a onetime intern who rose up to become London correspondent in 1997 and editor at large in 2015. Most recently, he was editor-in-chief of the London-based Jewish Quarterly. Vanden Heuvel, who is part of the ownership team, will become editorial director and hang onto her position as publisher.
And at The New Republic, Kelly reports that Acting Editorial Director Chris Lehmann was just named editor-in-chief.
Star search: Meredith Corporation’s Food & Wine has released its latest closely-watched Best New Chefs in America list—the 31st edition of the annual editorial franchise. The honorees are:
Mutsuko Soma, Kamonegi, Seattle
Misti Norris, Petra and the Beast, Dallas
Kwame Onwuachi, Kith/Kin, Washington, DC
Matthew Kammerer, Harbor House Inn – Elk, Mendocino
Caroline Glover, Annette, Aurora
Junghyun Park, Atomix, New York
Bryan Furman, B’s Cracklin, Atlanta
Nite Yun, Nyum Bai, Oakland
Paxx Caraballo Moll, Jungle Bao Bao, San Juan
Brandon Go, Hayato, Los Angeles
(Past honorees include Daniel Boulud, Andrew Carmellini, David Chang, Tom Colicchio, Stephanie Izard, Thomas Keller, Nobu Matsuhisa, Nancy Silverton and Michael Symon.)
F&W Restaurant Editor-at-Large Jordana Rothman flew more than 30,000 miles to visit each chef’s establishment. Glimpse the rising stars in this Instagram video and read all about them here.
And finally... Yesterday The Onion sent out an email blast subject-lined “Report: Keep Reading And Nobody Gets Hurt” and also tweeted out the story (which was originally published April 1, but apparently not enough of us complied?). Now this is a novel strategy to jack up reader engagement. Maybe The Onion’s new owner can apply it elsewhere in its new media portfolio?