When I interviewed Tina Brown just after the first issue came out,
she told me that "people didn’t necessarily know they wanted
something, but I think that when you produce something that is entertaining,
smart, fresh and new, they will want it, and they have responded very,
The problem was, she was deluding herself. People responded to the
opening-issue hype, but didn’t like the unfamiliar format, which didn’t
last long. By the time it folded, it looked like little more than
a low-rent Vanity Fair. Magazines tend to either make shedloads
of money or lose shedloads of money, and Talk had an aura of
being one of the latter. Its editorial grasp always exceeded its ad-revenue
reach, and the reading public somehow picked up on that.
As a magazine journalist, I probably pay more attention than most
magazine readers to things like quality of advertising, quantity of
pre-masthead ad pages and advertising-editorial ratios. But I think
the reading public picks up on these variables even if they don’t
realise it. Advertisers certainly do: I’ve never quite worked out
why they would prefer page 474 of Vanity Fair or Vogue
rather than page 78 of Talk, but they do.
Still, it would be wrong to blame Ron Galotti for Talk‘s failure.
He did his job admirably, while Tina Brown eventually put together
a book that was a more enjoyable read, most of the time, than Vanity
Fair. Both magazines had excellent journalism, but Talk
didn’t have as much boring journalism as Vanity Fair does.
(On the other hand, Vanity Fair won hands-down every month
on the photography front.)
The problem, of course, was that Harvey Weinstein is no Si Newhouse,
and once Cathleen Black decided she wouldn’t continue to bear her
share of the $50 million losses, it became obvious that he wouldn’t
subsidise the magazine on his own.
Everybody I’ve told about this so far has expressed no surprise or
regret whatsoever, which saddens me a little: I think it’s good for
Vanity Fair to have a little competition, for there to be more
than one general-interest title on the newsstand. But Talk
failed to capture the general imagination, and for that it paid the