50 shades of merchandising: A new glossy bets on a phenomenon

It could be a sign of the apocalypse, or maybe just the decline of civilization as we know it.

That seemed to be the initial reaction this week when we tweeted about the new magazine, FIFTY SHADES OF AMERICAN WOMEN WHO LOVE THE BOOK AND LIVE THE LIFE.

Yes, it’s an impossibly long title (especially for Twitter), so in the interest of brevity, we simply called it Fifty Shades of American Women.

And, no, it’s not a hoax; it’s now on newsstands at Barnes & Noble, Walmart and Target.

Retweets of the news by our Twitter followers included gems like, “Come, come nuclear bomb,” “WTF,” and “Oh dear God, no.”  A more optimistic follower offered, “Imagine the how-to articles!”

For those of you who just returned from an extended stay on the International Space Station, or were recently rescued from a deserted island in the Pacific, ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ is the first book in a trilogy written by British author E.L. James, and published in 2011.

The racy ‘romance/erotica’ book series quickly gained a rabid audience, and tapped a demographic goldmine of over-30, married women.  More than 40 million copies have been sold worldwide.  Firmly planted on The New York Times bestseller list for 26 weeks, the books have been the financial salvation of publisher Vintage and its parent, Random House.  Could the merchandising be far behind?

Fifty Shades of American Women, published by Topix Media Lab, has received some surprisingly kind reviews so far.  Some have likened the magazine to COSMOPOLITAN*.  While the cover boasts the kind of “tips” you might expect, it also contains cocktail recipes, book reviews, interviews with real men who have read the books, and articles about related cultural issues.

Can you base a magazine on a passing fad?  We’ll see.  Plenty of industry soothsayers probably thought it was folly to base a magazine on a TV show, like Oprah, or a network, like HGTV. So we might be foolish to scoff at the potential of a phenomenon.

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