Yesterday's announcement that Bauer was shutting down Cocktail before the first issue even launched caught many in the industry off-guard—the poor thing didn't even have a chance! "Nobody saw anything coming," says one former staffer. But another source tells us that signs pointing to the magazine's problems had been evident for the past few months. For one thing, what were they doing naming it Cocktail in the first place?
Bauer's official line was that they canned the mag because of "uncertain conditions in the single copy marketplace," and Radar quoted an insider yesterday as saying that the publishers were having trouble finding distribution for the magazine. But we're hearing that the major issue lay with one store in particular: Wal-Mart, which was refusing to stock it. "They couldn't sell a magazine in the Bible Belt called Cocktail," a source tells us.
Of course, that raises a pretty obvious question: If the issue was only with the name of the magazine, why not just change it? Probably because Bauer realized they had a stinker on their hands. A staffer on the ill-fated launch tells us that the magazine had a front that was similar to Us Weekly (although to our knowledge, the magazine had not found a senior-level person to handle celebrity coverage), with the rest of the book a mix of relationship articles, first-person stories, fashion and beauty articles, and health pieces, with the emphasis on pictures over copy. But perhaps more important, executive editor Jo Piazza, who was such a dynamo at the Daily News, has no magazine or editing experience, and editor-in-chief Maria Lissandrello is hardly a household name (she'd been executive editor at another Bauer title, First for Women). The lack of track records to impress advertisers was a problem that Bauer probably should have, but didn't, anticipate. A former staffer tells us that although the magazine had done very well in focus groups, the launch issue was only 84 pages, with few ads, with the expectation that, like most other Bauer titles, it would make its money on the newsstand. But with the Wal-Mart distribution problems looming, that strategy probably didn't seem so smart.
In the end, though, it was probably a combination of factors—that God-awful name, plus the magazine having trouble getting off the ground editorially, that doomed it. After all, it's not like Bauer is shy about launching publications of dubious quality on the cheap.