Forbes sees big business in women's lifestyle

NEW YORK Fri Sep 21, 2007 10:53am EDT

People are silhouetted at Canary Wharf business district in London May 1, 2007. Forbes has spent nearly a century covering businessmen clad in Brooks Brothers shirts and gray flannel suits. Now the magazine empire is aiming at executives who prefer Prada skirt suits and Balenciaga pumps. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

People are silhouetted at Canary Wharf business district in London May 1, 2007. Forbes has spent nearly a century covering businessmen clad in Brooks Brothers shirts and gray flannel suits. Now the magazine empire is aiming at executives who prefer Prada skirt suits and Balenciaga pumps.

Credit: Reuters/Luke MacGregor

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Forbes has spent nearly a century covering businessmen clad in Brooks Brothers shirts and gray flannel suits. Now the magazine empire is aiming at executives who prefer Prada skirt suits and Balenciaga pumps.

Forbes Life Executive Woman, whose first issue shipped this month, is an attempt to broaden the media company's coverage of senior-level businesswomen and to attract more sales from advertisers hawking luxury items.

The glossy quarterly contains profiles of female executives and aims to be a "concierge" with articles on fashion, travel, beauty and fitness.

"These women's lifestyle needs are very different than women's whose husbands are hedge fund managers. These are the hedge fund managers," said publisher Moira Forbes, daughter of Forbes President and Chief Executive Steve Forbes.

The first issue has a profile of JPMorgan Private Bank Chief Executive Mary Callahan Erdoes, dubbed "uber-banker to the super-rich," as well as women who made partner at Goldman Sachs while maintaining marriages and having children.

The magazine could snare advertisers who have never spent money on Forbes before because it has traditionally served a mostly male audience, said Reed Phillips, a media banker at DeSilva & Phillips. "It diversifies the kind of advertising that Forbes as a company can attract," he said.

The magazine is targeting women in households with a median income of $147,000, said Catherine Sabino, the magazine's editor. That is above the median income of $58,000 for Vogue, or $75,000 for InStyle, she said.

"This is an audience that can go into Bergdorf's or Barney's and buy the Hermes bag or the Cartier this-or-that," she said.

Forbes also believes those ranks are growing. Sabino in her note to readers cited a statistic from Fara Warner's book "The Power of the Purse" that says 40 percent of the 3 million people earning more than $500,000 a year are women.

The number of women in top-paying jobs, meanwhile, has risen slightly to 6.7 percent in 2006 from 6.4 percent in 2005, according to Catalyst, a non-profit group that promotes the advancement of women in business.

Despite the small number, other publishers are following suit. The Wall Street Journal plans to start its own weekend glossy lifestyle magazine in September 2008 and the New York Post has a similar magazine in the works.

Magazines like Pink and Working Mother specifically target women who do not want to sacrifice work or family life.

Pink found in a reader survey that "more than 90 percent said family was the most important thing in their lives, and yet over 85 percent said their career was also extremely important to them," said co-founder and editor Genevieve Bos.

Executive Woman also is a response to Conde Nast's Portfolio, the monthly business feature magazine, said magazine consultant Peter Kreisky.

"Because Portfolio's objective is to penetrate the market of women executives pretty significantly, Forbes is trying to blunt that attack," he said.

Bagging the magazine with copies of Forbes also guarantees an audience, in this case 125,000 female readers, or about 30 percent of Forbes's total paid subscriptions.

What remains to be seen is how Executive Woman resonates with its audience.

Betty Spence, president of the National Association for Female Executives, said she would rather see more female success stories in mainstream business publications.

"We don't want them necessarily to be separate," she said.

She also said there are plenty of other women's lifestyle magazines, such as Real Simple and Martha Stewart's Living and Blueprint.

Forbes said other women's business lifestyle magazines like Working Mother or Pink are "more 'mass,' mid-level manager-type magazines."

Forbes said that some women she spoke to resented the idea of a business magazine geared only for women, but said this is not Executive Woman's mission.

"There are so many sensitivities when you talk about women in business because women don't want to be recognized for their success just because they are women," she said.

Sabino said other lifestyle magazines fall short on topics that Executive Woman covers. "We looked at many issues of Vogue and Harper's Bazaar," she said. "The amount of coverage of what to wear in the workforce is minimal."

Pomegranate Asset Management Chief Executive Susan Solovay, who said she has spent 25 years in investing and trading, said she would be interested in the magazine.

"I find it kind of curious because we are different from men, and a lot of our issues, certainly, in the workplace are very different than men."

(To see Reuters MediaFile blog, click here)

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