Society-Mag Smackdown

 

ON A RECENT SUNDAY, Minnie Mortimer was at a dinner in Montauk to celebrate the fall collection of her clothing line. Kelly Bensimon, an editor at large for Gotham and Hamptons, was also present.

Ms. Mortimer proclaimed the two society magazines her favorite. “Cristina grew up here so she really knows everybody and not just like studied them and knows who they are,” she said. “She’s friends with so many people that she really understands the vibe and the feeling of being out here.”

‘They’ll be wiped out!’—David Patrick Columbia,editor in chief of Quest, on the shiny new arrivistes

Indeed, Ms. Cuomo is not just an editor—she’s also a subject, this month on the cover of Avenue, her ostensible competitor, which lists socialite Debbie Bancroft and Lacey Tisch-Sidney as contributing writers. Socialites Barbara Bancroft and Gillian Hearst Simonds are contributors to Q. Social Life has publicist Kristian Laliberte listed as an editor, but then ranks his social status inside. Hamptonite’s cover girl, Ms. De Lesseps, is a contributing writer. And—perhaps taking their cue from Vanity Fair—Ms. Cuomo’s Hamptons has Christie Brinkley and Katie Lee Joel; Gotham Damon Dash and Judith Giuliani.

“When Pamela [Gross, Avenue’s editor] asked me to be on the cover, I asked her, ‘Don’t you see this as competition?’” Ms. Cuomo recalled. “And she said, ‘No, we only cover society. You cover affluence.’”

What does that mean, exactly?

“Affluence is someone with money and the means,” Ms. Cuomo replied. “Society is a very exclusive, elite group of individuals who do or do not have the means and carry the weight of tradition and family rooted in the community.”

There are, of course, advantages to having a magazine that is written by the very people it covers. Earlier this year, when Tinsley and Topper Mortimer were rumored to be splitting up, every New York publication immediately requested a Tinsley profile. The only magazine that got it was Avenue.

“Tinsley Mortimer is a very good idea,” said Mr. Columbia. “She’s a good-looking girl in a classic sense—she’s the blue-eyed, blond white girl. And now, she’s been around long enough that they also assign personality to her about her marriage and her husband.” 

Of course, in this economic climate, even magazines shot through with blue blood are experiencing red ink.

Advertising for Mr. Binn’s magazines is down more than 30 percent, and there were recently layoffs at Niche Media.

As for Mr. Vola: The fate of Hamptonite’s second issue, scheduled to come out Labor Day weekend, is still uncertain; he’d like to find a private investor but doesn’t know where to look.

“I try not to think about it,” said Mr. Vola, who is still working as a plumber. “I’m not going to give up. I put everything I have into it. I’m hoping that by next summer it can turn a profit. But for right now, I just hope it pays for itself, because I am not a bottomless pit.”

ialeksander@observer.com, jkoblin@observer.com

Society-Mag Smackdown