Esquire Is Getting Nervous

Esquire's ad revenue dropped 22% in the first quarter, which actually put it above average. But we hear that the magazine's staff, and its corporate overlords, are on edge. There was a meeting yesterday [UPDATED]...

A tipster tells us the magazine had a sales meeting, and it wasn't pretty. According to our tipster: Publisher Kevin O'Malley told the staff that even though Esquire did (very relatively) better than rival GQ last quarter, it wasn't good enough—he wants them to be picking up the market share lost by Portfolio and Best Life. Other complaints: GQ got more National Magazine Award nominations, and some high end advertisers think Esquire is becoming too "gimmicky." Which it is!

Remember the magazine's flashing "E-Ink" cover last year, that was supposed to be the start of a revolution? Supposedly Ford was so upset with the execution of its ad on the inside cover that it wanted credit back. Financially, our tipster characterizes last year as a "disaster," and says this year will be even worse. They say there is huge pressure to deliver a big issue in September (the "video issue"), although no one sounds very optimistic.

There's also a rumor going around among Esquire staffers that Hearst might shutter or sell Esquire and Popular Mechanics and "focus solely on the female demographic." We ran this by a Hearst PR person, who dismissed it as "Blatantly false."

UPDATE: Another Esquire spokesperson sent us this additional statement [in fairness—our tipster may be referring to a compilation of issues at the magazine rather than ones that were specifically discussed in a single meeting]:

"The rumors in your item are patently untrue. There was no such meeting yesterday. A sales meeting took place on Tuesday, but there was no 'chewing out,' and not one thing mentioned in this article was discussed."

UPDATE 2:
We also received this email from Jay Ward of Ford's public affairs dept., saying the company was not unhappy with its Esquire ad:

I write to you from Ford Motor Company with regards to the story you ran today regarding Esquire and the E-Ink cover. In the article, you claim that Ford was so upset with the E-Ink execution on the inside cover that we wanted credit back.

I would like to very clearly state on behalf of Ford Motor Company that this was not the case. Indeed, the opposite is true. We were delighted with the E-Ink cover and the huge amount of coverage we got on a worldwide basis for the innovation. The reason we partnered with Esquire in the first place was to do something that had never been done before to promote a car that was a real departure from the norm for Ford. As such, the E-Ink application was exactly what we had in mind when we first planned the advertising campaign, and our partnership with Esquire was one that we were, and still are, delighted with.

On a broader note, we continue to advertise with Esquire and many of the Hearst publications and remain committed to the work that they do - they continue to deliver the audience that we at Ford want to be reaching out to and we see no reason that this stance will change in the future.

[As always, if you'd like to leak some dirt about your magazine, email us.]