Magazine maven Bonnie Fuller poised to market her toughest brand yet: Herself

Magazine maven Bonnie Fuller poised to market her toughest brand yet: Herself

The gap between Canada Day and the star-spangled Fourth is a good time to reflect on the differences, similarities and absurdities that define the decidedly imbalanced relation between our “two great nations.” (My colleague Andrew Clark, The Guardian’s man in New York, full of ill-informed good cheer, saluted our national day thusly: “Happy St. Canada’s Day. Hope the turkey and cheesy fries go down well.”) And while I’m sure it was inadvertent, The New York Times did devote rather a lot of space—the lead feature in last Sunday’s business section—to one of our own: the inevitable Bonnie Fuller. The writer was David Carr, the Times’s go-to guy on the media biz, who contends that Fuller—whose peripatetic risings and fallings in the New York magazine world are the stuff of endless clucking—is to our celebutante-inebriated culture as Einstein was to quantum theory. (That’s a, er, rough analogy, but you get my drift.) To wit: “Through nearly two decades of vision and relentlessness, Ms. Fuller created a way of objectifying the A- and B-list that turned celebrities into not only our ‘friends,’ but also American royals, unelected gods who walk among us.”

Well, that’s certainly no mean feat for a former editor at Flare.

The rest of the piece is riddled with exactly the sort of backhanded compliments and bitch slaps you’d expect:

Given the kinds of professional lengths she is willing to traverse, she isn’t exactly an empath when it comes to those around her. Her underlings have exacted a brutal price, lashing back by dishing at every turn in the blogs and on the gossip pages. In one particularly memorable bit, her former employees told Vanity Fair that they did disgusting things to her food as payback for long hours and unreasonable expectations.

The answer to the why-does-this-matter-now? query turns on Ms. Fuller’s latest venture. Having burned just about every available corporate bridge in the magazine world, the woman is launching herself onto those briny seas under her own flag:

Russ Pillar, an investor and a former head of the interactive division of Viacom…says his company, the 5850 Group, is seeking to raise “tens of millions” to back Ms. Fuller as a brand: she has created a company called Bonnie Fuller Media, based in New York. He says the start-up will be heavily digital and offer a variety of femme-friendly products that will include, but not be limited to, gossip, fashion and romance.

Mr. Pillar sees Ms. Fuller as a reliable cash register. “Everyone who ever did business with her got paid and got paid very well,” he says.

Good lord. Can you imagine any of Toronto’s earnestly pearled and pant-suited distaff editors and/or publishers convincing some master of this universe to part with her majesty’s coin? Mind, I don’t suppose being described as a “reliable cash register” is any great hell, either.

As for Bonnie’s prospects in the digital world, I’m not sure that the marketorial formulas that worked for her at Cosmo and Us Weekly have much purchase on the Web. It’s a wilder and woollier place here, where half-lives are measured in fractions of seconds and page views. TMZ makes Star magazine look like The Paris Review. Hilariously, Bonnie may be too polite—too Canadian—to make it work. Consider this bit of earnest motherhood: “There has been a group of young women that readers have wanted to know about—Britney, Lindsay, Nicole, Paris—and I truly believe most of our readers were worried about them. They wanted them to get better, to go to rehab or whatever needed to be done to get them better.”

That kind of soporific self-delusion isn’t likely to get her very far in a world where, as Carr put it, “the public would be satisfied only if Britney Spears lit herself on fire.”

101 Secrets (and 9 Lives) of a Magazine Star [New York Times]• One New World, Two Big Ideas [New York Times] • Marni Soupcoff on Google’s Canada Day snub [National Post]