The Life and Death of Lear’s

Lears 1In 1987, Frances Lear, age 65, set up shop in New York as a fledgling publisher.

She shook up the magazine world.

In her editor’s letter of Issue No. 1, Lear wrote, “I arrived in New York with two suitcases of clothes, a few pieces of paper and the germ of an idea.”

The “germ of an idea” was to create a glossy, upmarket magazine exclusively for women aged 50 and over — Lear’s.

Among the “few pieces of paper” was a check for $47 million — the down payment of her settlement after 28 years of marriage to television producer Norman Lear. At that time, it was one of the most lucrative divorce awards in history.

With great fanfare, Lear summoned everyone who was anyone in the worlds of magazine circulation, advertising, printing and distribution for a series of meetings to pick their brains.

According to circulation consultant Paul Goldberg, Lear’s had a real shot at success.

For example, in 1981, Paul and I had Barbara V. Hertz as a client. She started Prime Time — a magazine for men and women ages 45 and over. Circulation got up to 150,000, but it died within a year after losing millions of dollars.

According to Goldberg, a service magazine for older men and older women could not work in terms of content, tone and advertising.

Frances Lear homed in on women only. Lears 2Paul also said Lear’s people called him to come in for an interview. He turned them down flat. “Too damn many people looking over her shoulder,” he snarled.

From Frances Lear’s 1996 Obituary
(Pronounced Oh-Bitch-You-Airy)

Almost immediately after the magazine’s debut, Ms. Lear developed a reputation for being unpredictable and hot-tempered … There ensued a revolving door of editors and writers, many of whom complained of Ms. Lear’s inexperience and capricious decisions. Numerous articles were accepted and not published, and layouts were changed at the last minute … a staff member recalled that when Ms. Lear had been told that she could not change a quotation, she had shouted, ”It is my magazine, and I will do what I want.”

The Dry Test
The logical way to start a monthly magazine is with a dry test — e.g., a mailing that offers the first issue free and 11 additional issues for a low, low introductory price.


Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at dennyhatch.com.


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