Felix Dennis, the British raconteur who brought the world the lad magazine Maxim, has my back. His magazine The Week riffs through all the content in the known universe and digests it into a form that can be disposed of in 20 minutes....
“The Week is going to be a huge global brand. Cross my heart and hope to die, I have already been offered hundreds of millions of dollars for it,” he said this month, sitting in the sun at the Terrace Club in Midtown Manhattan. “If Henry Luce were to come back from the dead and was offered any magazine as a reward for coming back from the dead, I think he’d say he’d take The Week, because his first idea was doing exactly what this magazine does. His original idea was offering readers of précis of what was happening around the world in a given week.”
Mr. Dennis recently sold the American version of Maxim, a juggernaut that was showing the strains of increasing competition. Given that he was pulling back in the United States, why not just add The Week to the sale?
“I will throw The Week onto no pile until it becomes a half a billion or billion-dollar franchise,” he said. “The Week is my baby.”
He also believes he can get a toehold in the newsweekly market because, he says, the established players Time, Newsweek and U. S. News & World Report have lost touch with the news.
“‘Golfing for Cats With Jesus Who Has Cancer’ is not something that people need to know about,” he said. The Week is all news, all the time, with editors who comb publications and republish annotated accounts from a disparate group of sources. Not only does it have the editorial reach of the Web, but it has the same significant cost benefits because most of the data and reporting are borrowed.
Throughout his career, Mr. Dennis has railed against the wobbly circulation economics of an industry built on maintaining a rate base for advertisers at whatever cost to the consumer.
“They forgot about the reader. Publishers got fat with their cigar-smoking, suspender-snapping, breast-beating, with the huge lunches and all of the lying about their circulation,” he said. “Excess should be a personal thing, not how you run an industry.”
Mr. Dennis knows about excess. In addition to being a publisher, he is also a published poet whose does his book tours by personal jet and spends much of his time in an enclave on the exclusive southern Caribbean island of Mustique. But he is not nearly so profligate when it comes to making a newsweekly. A planned version of The Week in the East will have five editors in Australia and one-man bureaus in Hong Kong, Singapore and New Zealand. William Falk, the editor of The Week here, came along for lunch and confirmed that they put out the magazine with a total of only 15 editors.
“The American magazine industry has been massively overstaffed for years and years. It is one of the most inefficient businesses in the history of the world. And you know what? The chickens are coming home to roost,” Mr. Dennis said. “They can sit around the campfire listening to the scary noises out in the dark, wondering where it all went, but what I would suggest is that they take some of the chickens, skin ’em, and stick ’em on the campfire and start eating.”