Donald Trump knows the power of a name—his name. By plastering his moniker on casinos, hotels, and condos, Trump has made it a synonym for ultra-affluence. Even as his casinos lapse into bankruptcy, the Donald has parlayed his personality into a hit TV show and eight books. In August, he introduced a line of suits bearing his handle. So what does the icon who has sold it all try to sell next?
A glossy. With his name on it. “We’re going to bring to life Trump’s passions, his business pursuits, and his search for excellence when it comes to dining and travel,” says Michael Jacobson, editor and publisher of Trump World. “This magazine will feature the best of the best.”
In an effort to capitalize on the popularity of his hit TV show, Trump World will hit newsstands September 24—at a price of $5.99 a copy, with the cast of The Apprentice on the cover of the first edition. “Trump, just by his name, will be able to get through doors that a lot of the rest can’t,” says Dale Rim, editor of Millionaire and Billionaire magazines. “It’s always going to be impressive if Donald Trump calls up a media buyer and says, ‘I’d like you to advertise in my magazine.’ That’s a very powerful tool.”
But not everyone is sure that Trump’s appeal translates into the world of magazines.
“I have not seen the magazine, but I’m not sure that it does,” says George Sansoucy, senior vice president and managing director of print and convergence for Initiative Media. “Case in point: Lifetime magazine. We’re not talking about a person, but we are talking about a broadcast brand.” Last week that magazine, a joint project of Hearst and Walt Disney, announced it was closing.
This version of Trump World will actually be a reincarnation. Jacobson says he originally conceived the idea in the fall of 2001, while a partner at Lockwood Publications. Originally, Jacobson was charged with creating a gaming magazine, but after 9-11, the funding dried up.
“I came up with the idea on a fluke,” says Jacobson. “I ended up going down to Atlantic City to Trump Marina, just to blow off some steam. I noticed that not only was there no Trump magazine in my room, there weren’t any magazines. Within a month I was presenting my idea to Donald to do a magazine branded with his name.”
Lockwood put out two issues of Trump World—one in November 2002 and one in May 2003. By then, Jacobson and Trump had become fast friends. “I was on his helicopter and he said, ‘You know this magazine should really be national,’ ” says Jacobson. “And that was a dream to me.”
Back at Lockwood, Jacobson’s colleagues weren’t as intrigued. So Jacobson purchased the rights to Trump World himself. Whereas before it was controlled-circulation, with a print run of 50,000, the new model will ship 150,000 copies to newsstands and have six issues its first year. Jacobson plans to cut a demographic swath as broad and absurd as the Donald’s own ego, targeting men and women between the ages of 21 and 55 who have an interest in the finer things.
“There’s the people at the Trump resorts, the people who’ve made it. They’re rich, living the Trump dream,” says Jacobson. “Then there’s a second group of young, 21-to-39-year-old Apprentice watchers. The upwardly mobile lawyer, doctor, stockbroker, secretary, wanting to live the fantasy. They’re going to be the ones buying at the newsstands.”
But some say Trump World is targeting two opposing markets. “I call those groups achievers and emulators,” says Rick Sedler, president of RMS Media Group and former publisher of The Robb Report. “They don’t mingle very well and it’s harder to appeal to both, because once an achiever realizes that an emulator is buying the product, they move away from it.”
Then there are the recent troubles that have beset personality-based publications in general. While Oprah Winfrey’s O magazine enjoys a paid circulation of over 2 million, Rosie—published by Gruner + Jahr USA and themed around entertainer Rosie O’Donnell—folded at the end of 2002, after a nasty dispute over the magazine’s direction. Subsequent court proceedings revealed that officials at Gruner + Jahr had inflated Rosie‘s circulation. Martha Stewart Living was also forced to grapple with the trial of its matronly muse.
“There’s always an embedded risk for any publication that’s being branded with a person,” says Sansoucy. “Because people are human.”
For his part, Jacobson is willing to put his money on the Donald. “He’s the human logo,” says Jacobson. “He’s a branding king, and the magazine will tie all of those branding opportunities into one.”
The last interview Rick James offered did not go to one of the classic music outlets like Spin, Vibe, or Tracks. No, the Superfreak’s final public words were captured by Allhiphop (allhiphop.com), the brainchild of Chuck “Jigsaw” Creekmur and “Grouchy” Greg Watkins. Allhiphop posted the interview on August 5, the day before James died. With the news of his death, traffic at the website doubled. “This was the grand slam,” Creekmur says. “Unfortunately, Rick died. I shed tears over it. One of the last things he said was, ‘When I come to New York, we’re gonna sit down and talk some more.’ ”
The site’s reputation had already been growing because of its daily “Alerts”—a hip-hop news brief sent to 450,000 subscribers. In the case of the James interview, Allhiphop captured the tragic. But more often the website offers the blanket absurdities of rapdom. In an an infamous Alert from September 2002, Beanie Sigel bragged about putting holsters in his new clothing line. “You know how you put your gun in your waistline and you gotta worry about it slipping?” Sigel told the website. “With these clothes, you don’t have to worry about that. It’s already in there.”
Allhiphop.com is one of the few survivors from a rash of hip-hop sites that came online as the Internet bubble expanded. “I ain’t gonna lie—I really wanted to be a part of it,” Creekmur says. “At the time we were so broke, and you had big companies that weren’t leaving much advertising for us and we didn’t really have the traffic. At the end of the day what won people over was our consistency.”
That and keeping their overhead low. While most boom-era hip-hop sites (hookt.com, 360hiphop.com, etc.) lived and died by their enormous budgets, Allhiphop kept watch over the purse strings. By 2002, it was turning a profit.
Creekmur and Watkins will overhaul Allhiphop this year. The site will be cleaner, but will still offer a mix of promotion and news of the lurid. “If you have an artist that you need to promote, this is a good service,” says Watkins. “However, if you fuck up and get arrested with weed on you, sorry, we gotta cover it.”
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 7, 2004